Scott Ainslie Blues Guitarist

Scott Ainslie – Blues Singer, Guitarist, Historian and Songwriter – The ArtsCenter

Scott Ainslie Performing in the Triangle Area of North CarolinaScott Ainslie’s performance in Carrboro NC at The ArtsCenter, March 29, 2014, was legendary.

After an introduction, Scott stepped out on stage to a rousing applause. This was an audience that knew Scott and loves his work. Every song he played drew energetic applause and occasional shouts.

We had a break, then into the second set.

Scott played “Come On In My Kitchen.” I knew it well. I’d heard it many times before on his CDs.

But this time, the way he was playing was over-the-top extraordinary. Magical. Legendary.

Moving from full power to whispers with breathtaking grace, Scott lingered between notes and held notes longer, and time slowed, and the notes sank low and slow.

ImageWhen it ended we gave him a roaring applause.

The performance was thrilling. Our response, thrilling, and like being present for musical history, being there was thrilling. It was like being at Boston’s Fenway Park for a historic home run.

“Thanks for having the ears to hear that,” Scott said to us.

When I emailed Scott and asked if he knew he was playing differently, Scott wrote, “I’ve long ended it the way I did that night,” as if there was nothing different about that performance.

But the whole song that was intense, mesmerizing. I was there, and I’ve been to at least five of Scott’s performances in small settings in North Carolina, and I’ve listened to his CDs many dozens of times, so I know, there was something utterly breathtaking about his performance of Come On In My Kitchen that night.

ImageScott wrote, “Somehow the audience held on to every evocative note and listened right to the ending. [...] It was moving.”

And more, “That song has always held a beauty and spookiness for me. Robert Johnson and Johnny Shines played it a lot. And one night, according to Shines, they played it late and slowly. And when they finished, Shines said, it was silent. And they looked up from their guitars and everyone was crying. The women. And the men. It felt like that. Which is why I said “Thanks for having the ears to hear that.”

It WAS haunting, and we were moved. I can still here the sound of the wind.

Several other moments stay with me from that evening, but I’ll mention one more.

Before playing “Down in Mississippi” (1966, J.B. Lenoir) Scott recited the names of five civil rights martyrs and the date of their deaths.

I didn’t expect that, though he’d probably done it at earlier performances. It was very moving, especially for me, since I had begun studying African American history moved by the stories that Scott Ainslie tells with his songs, and moved by the music, some of which is already in me, in my memory, in my heart, and deeper.

This time, I recognized Emmett Till’s name. I knew his story. This time it felt personal to me, as if his murder happened in my life time, even though I wasn’t born until 3 years later.

Emmett Till (1955)

Medgar Evers (1963)

Chaney, Schwerner & Goodman (1964)

What cruel times humanity walks through, over and over again. Let us never be complacent to think the wrongs of yesterday are gone.

A master musician, story teller and historian, Ainslie delivers African American history to white audiences through playing the Blues and telling of the African roots of American music. He shares riveting detail of injustices and moments of grace, and expert detail of instruments and musical culture. His own songs draw from that musical heritage and some “The Land That I Love” weave in current injustices – like the deadly desert border crossings in Arizona.

Raleigh Artist, Jenn Hales

Inside Jenn Hales’ studio store at Citymarket.

Raleigh artist, Jenn Hales is an environmentally conscious artist who does both commercial art (graphic design) as well as fine art. Wonderfully appealing paintings with imagination and beautiful colors and expression.

She runs Patina by Jenn Hales, a fine art and design studio located in downtown Raleigh in Citymarket, in a space with the Gaille Collection.

Today, we just missed the book launch of a new children’s book for which Jenn Hales was the artist: White Flour, by singer songwriter and peace activist, David LaMotte on Friday June 8.

Jenn Hales’ painted illustrations for David LaMotte’s 2nd children’s book, White Flour hang on the wall above the newly released book White Flour. The art space is next to Art Space, in Citymarket, downtown Raleigh.

White Flour rhymes, and tells “the funny and inspiring story of the day that the Ku Klux Klan met the Coup Clutz Clowns, who offered a whimsical and wise retort to their racist rally. The poem that provides the text for the book was inspired by true events in Knoxville, TN in 2007.” (Quote from David LaMotte’s site.)

The original art for the book is available for sale in sets of two. The paintings on birch wood display a beautiful effect with the grain of the wood under the blue sky pictured here. The book, White Flour, is on the table.

Feathers and Thorns on the window sill.

Jenn Hales has an over the shoulder tattoo with birds near her collarbone and a full collection of feathers trailing down her right shoulder blade. Here, in her store and studio at Citymarket.

Patina by Jenn Hales has original paintings, giclees in various sizes, posters, cards and post cards, as well as a wonderful assortment of visually interesting objects from a very large light bulb, to a feather collection next to some particularly dramatic thorns. She had decorated the walls with thin strips of wood that twisted like a ribbon garland.

What a delightful discovery. Beautiful paintings, getting to meet the artist – thanks to Sherri of the Gaille Collection who took us outside to meet Jenn where she was supervising an outdoor art project.

For more information visit Jenn Hales’ website at, email her at or call 919-656-8713.

Liz Russell and her daughter in front of the Washington Monument

Walking for a Cure: Liz Russell

” Every one deserves a lifetime.”

I had the opportunity to work with dental practice manager Liz Russell for two and a half years and learned early on that her own mother had died too young from breast cancer.

I’ve had friends who have suddenly discovered they have breast cancer, and  who were completing treatment for breast cancer. That was hard enough to hear. But hearing a woman share about her mother losing the fight to breast cancer, hit me from a whole new dimension, a daughter’s perspective. The tears welled up in my eyes the first time she shared that with me, and again, when we were going over the pictures from her 3-Day for the Cure walk.

Liz and her daughter have run in 12 5K Races for the Cure in Raleigh, and in September 2011, for the second time, they walked the 60 mile Susan G. Komen 3-Day for the Cure. Liz shared her photos from the September 2011 walk in Washington, DC (and gave me permission to use them in a blog post).

We scrolled through her pictures on Facebook. Liz told me about the incredible support. The humor. The sense of community. The men who rode motor cycles and dressed up to encourage the walkers.

Men? That’s when the tears began to  fall. I must have imagined that this is just a woman’s disease that we face only with each other. That men would take time to be there moves me to tears. Then as Liz was telling me about it and showing their pictures. And now, as I write this.

Imagine, Liz, a practice manager in her office, and me a contract marketing communications writer, meeting to catch up on news, and sharing these photos – many which I wouldn’t publish on the blog, but which offered smiles. I know these walks have been around for years. My mother, my sister, my sister-in-law have all walked on at least one if not three of them. But that day it hit it home in a whole new way. Liz and her daughter were doing what they could to fight for the lives of women they may still be able to save with community, courage and cheer.

Liz said she AND her husband are going to volunteer next year. They want to be part of this amazing event going forward. It was then that I asked permission to write about this.

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Artist Karen Tiede

Colors of India, Hand-woven rug by Fiber Artist Karen Tiede

Fiber artist Karen Tiede is a talent to be reckoned with. If you don’t know about her, you’re going to want to look her up.

Everything about Karen is made in the USA, except that she is the daughter of a US marine and lived in a number of exciting places around the world before college, Duke University, in the US – Germany, England, South Africa, and the Soviet Union.

She’s passionate about recycling.
US Fiber Artist Karen Tiede

Like a number of amazonian women, and by definition, renaissance women in the 21st century, Karen Tiede is so multi-faceted it will make your head turn. Perhaps that is how she can craft such exquisite color medlies in her knitted rugs.

As a rug weaver, Karen Tiede is shifting from knit rugs (see Colors of India) with recycled fibers, to woven rugs with recycled fibers.

Karen is also a hula hoop maker and performer.

Karen Tiede Amazon Vine Voice ReviewerA prolific writer, Karen Tiede is a prolific reader and book reviewer as shown by her acceptance into the invitation only Vine Voice program on as a book reviewer, an elite group of reviewers on Amazon who get offered books to review. She has 178 book reviews to her credit and is in the top 5000 book reviewers on, a site which has many millions of reviewers.

The author of Carve Smart about a book about carving tree trunks, which Karen managed to get delivered to her artist studio in Moncure, North Carolina, Karen Tiede’s as comfortable with an electric buzz saw as she is with knitting needles and a loom. (We’ll save the hoops for later.)

Visit Karen Tiede’s website:



Blog Posts


Honoring Hospice, Honoring Papa

Writer Kristy Stevenson wrote this guest post in honor of the gift that hospice is to our community, and in honor of her Papa, Lloyd, on the occasion of the 10th Annual Big Bad Ball.

Lloyd was an avid golfer, Cessna pilot, and card shark.  Beloved by family and friends, he was often the life of every party.  But to me, he was just “Papa.”

He was the eldest of five brothers and sisters, living through the Great Depression and taking various jobs to help support the family.  Lloyd was a member of the Civil Air Patrol and served in the US Navy during WWII.  He volunteered on the Local Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’i’s of Brookfield, WI for many years and was a mentor for Junior Achievement.  An industrial engineer, Lloyd worked for the Square D Company for 38 years and relocated to Raleigh, NC in 1972 to help open their Knightdale plant.  Together, he and Margaret were also sales leaders in the Shaklee Corporation.

As the years went by, Lloyd slowed down. He suffered from Alzheimer’s complicated by congestive heart failure – a relentless combination that took him from us bit by bit.  Gone was his quick wit and devilish sense of humor, along with recognition of many formerly familiar things.  His body was failing, his mood could change with the wind, and he often seemed lost and despondent.  This was not the Papa we knew.  This was not the Papa we wanted people to remember.  Only Duke Hospice understood that.

Gram with Papa

At a critical point in Lloyd’s illness, he and my grandmother found themselves forced to move. Margaret notified Hospice and explained their situation. Hospice immediately arranged for a hospital bed to be delivered to their new address as well as having someone available to help move Papa in his fragile state.

“The real angel was Terri Stewart,” said Margaret. “She bathed Lloyd and made up the new bed – making the stress of moving easier and my husband so much more comfortable.” At 90, Margaret became Lloyd’s main caregiver and so appreciated Terri’s visits.  “When she would come to the house to care for him, she would order supplies to keep him  comfortable – anything we needed.  Lloyd loved her; that really helped a lot,” recalls Margaret. “She was very patient and loving with him and always had a smile on her face.  At our age, we’ve spent more time than we’d like to admit with doctors and in hospitals … and unlike others, these gals were never grumpy or in a hurry.”

Volunteer Brenda VanBenschoten stayed with Lloyd so that Margaret could take a break and collect some groceries. “She would always tell me not to rush and stay longer if I needed to,” said Margaret.  “She’d cut my husband’s hair, helping him maintain his dignity during a time when he had little control over anything.”

At a time when caring for our loved one began to seem overwhelming, Hospice workers came and went from the house without missing a beat. They came in, got things done, and were careful to respect not only the patient in his current state, but the person he used to be. They saw him as an individual who had shared a full life marked by the hearts he touched and laughs he shared.

For a brief time, Lloyd seemed to plateau and glimpses of his sense of humor returned. He was sitting up in bed when I saw him Wednesday afternoon. But by Friday morning, he could no longer suck from a straw and his mouth had to be swabbed with a sponge. I was taken aback by his visage and stood motionless in the bedroom doorway. At my grandmother’s request, I went to get a damp washcloth to wipe his face and cool his hands. Afterwards, I excused myself to the kitchen.  I was shocked at how he had deteriorated in the short time since I’d last seen him. A rush of tears suddenly engulfed me and it was hard to breathe.  The Hospice nurse remained calm and hugged me tight. She assured me that everything Papa was going through was completely normal and just the end stages of his life. It was comforting to rely on someone who had been through all of this before, and to be assured that he was not in any pain.

“I told Terri how particular my husband always was about how he looked,” said Margaret. “All his life, it was important to him to be clean and well groomed. After his passing, Terri called the house to express her condolences and share how happy she was to have given Lloyd a bath and a fresh change of clothes just before his death so that he was clean for the next world.”

Lloyd was 92 when he died at his Raleigh home in 2008. His obituary simply said he passed away after a long illness. But family members and Hospice know the suffering of Alzheimer’s patients – and how they are taken from us long before their actual death.

Lloyd was a wonderful husband, father, grandfather, great-grandfather, and friend … and Hospice helped us recall the fullness of his life rather than the dwindling of it.

Kristy Stevenson is a freelance writer based in Raleigh, North Carolina. You can read and subscribe to her blog, follow her on Twitter, and like her Facebook page to keep up with her. Let her know what you liked about this guest post by leaving a comment.


Jessie Baker, Photographer in Wilmington, North Carolina

North Carolina documentary Photographer Jessie Baker

Jessie Baker, a North Carolina documentary photographer based in Wilmington, but who travels the world for the right pictures.

Jessie Baker attended a wedding where I was taking catering pictures on behalf of the Raleigh caterer, Catering by Design. Jessie looked so lovely, her black dress with a sheer layer, creating a striking contrast to the sheer white billowing curtains on the outdoor covered patio, turquoise jewelry that matched turquoise beads on her sandals, that I asked permission to take a photo. Didn’t know she was a photographer herself! Curiosity reigns, and here’s more about Jessie Baker, the photographer who wasn’t the wedding photographer the day I met her.

Interview with photographer Jessie Baker

Tell us why and when you became a photographer.

I have always had a passion for photography for as long as I can remember.  I think the ability to freeze moments in time or share the way I see the world through a camera is fascinating. That’s  what motivated me to become a professional photographer.

What kinds of photographs do your customers ask for?

I do a variety of work from primarily weddings to creative photojournalism work for magazines and newspapers.  My clients usually are requesting an artistic style or documentary style in my work.

Do you have a specialty? What would you say is unique about you?

My specialty would be shooting weddings in a documentary style.  I stay away from traditional wedding shoots where you only have posed portraits, I really like to focus on getting good candid photos and documenting the entire day in a creative way.

Photographer Jessie Baker took photos at Dayton Beach for Beach Palooza

You’re located in Wilmington, how far have you traveled to take photographs? 

I have taken photo assignments in South Africa, Fiji and Australia.

Wow! That’s around the world.

How do you think people choose photographers? Why do your customers choose you?

For weddings a large reason people choose me is they have a connection with me, I don’t typically shoot weddings for people I don’t know or quickly form a good relationship with.

I’m also pretty upfront about what I do and what they should expect out of me, I don’t try to say things they want to hear, I just tell them the truth.

I’ve learned from observing other photographers in the past who made the mistake of just telling the client what they think they want to hear. They end up unhappy with the work, and that’s just not good business.  For me it’s just about being genuine.  If I’m not for them that’s ok I want them to find the right fit.

People also choose me when they are looking for documentary style for their weddings.  I think knowing what style of a photographer you want is a primary deciding factor in how clients choose photographers.

Are you from North Carolina? (How long have you been in NC?)

I am from North Carolina in the Charlotte area and I have lived in Wilmington primarily for the past seven years.

Wedding photo by Jessie Baker of Jessie Baker Photography

What’s been your experience with social media and your business? Time. Effort. Ease of making new connections. Growing your business.

Facebook is a great free tool that is huge in booking clients and getting  my pictures out there.  I think once you get it set up it’s pretty easy to maintain and manage.

What is your favorite thing to photograph on your own time?

Different cultures when I’m traveling is definitely my favorite.

What tips would you give to people considering having their friends take pictures at their wedding? Reasons not to do it. Two things to keep in mind if they do do it. 

  • Don’t use a friend photographer if they aren’t actually a working photographer or haven’t previously shot any weddings.
  • Don’t use a friend photographer if you are just doing it to get out of paying anything, yet still have high expectations of having amazing photos for your wedding.
  • If you do use a friend photographer, be realistic about what you are getting and also appreciate the tremendous stress that puts on your friend.  Also, sit down with them and go over what you are hoping to have so they have a good idea of what to shoot for going into it.
Jessie Baker has studied photography at the University of Roehampton London and the University of Sydney Australia.  In the past she has shot for publications internationally such as Feejee Experience based in Vitu Levu, Fiji and the Cape Times and Cape Argus in Cape Town, South Africa. Her clients have included:  Wrightsville Beach Magazine, Focus on the Coast, North Brunswick Magazine, Cape TimesCape Argus, Feejee Experience, East Coast Brickwork, Dry Case.
To learn more about Jessie, visit her Facebook Page and her website Jessie Baker Photography.