On display at Magpie, a sun-faded pink building on 10th Avenue South, there sits an old suitcase bulging with a jumble of handmade headbands. There are jewel-encrusted folds of velour, wound-up rivulets of ribbon, slap-dash bows of oversized houndstooth and billowy piles of satin, all glued and affixed to half-moon bands, narrow and fat.With their occasional rough edges and homemade scruff, the bands are not out of place at the sleepy store, which doubles as an art gallery and artisan's bazaar. Co-owner Rhiannon Guillet—who named the shop after the bird that collects and scavenges to make a nest—hosts some 12 to 15 artists' handcrafted, locally made wares alongside her own line of vintage-inspired, flirty dresses. There are hand-blown sushi plates, handmade trivets crafted by 86-year-old hands, hand-dyed silk scarves, a self-published novel and the CD of a local duo. Earrings may go for as low as $10, while necklaces may tower toward $100.
And then there are the headbands of Dorothy Dark.
It's not surprising that the creator of this hodgepodge of moods, materials and whimsies likes old things. Calligraphy. Benjamin Franklin. Painting for relaxation. The sport of fencing. Set up a meeting with the budding entrepreneur and you might be on the lookout for Dorothy Dark, 20-something bohemian artiste. Or Dorothy Dark, with-it retiree.
Instead, you arrive at a Belmont coffee house to find...a 10-year-old girl. Fifth-grader at J.T. Moore. Likes social studies. Recently addicted to log cabins. And as founder/creator of Mood Yogurt headbands, perhaps the city's youngest featured artisan.
Like so many entrepreneurial whims of childhood, hers did not originate from a deeply felt calling.
"Me and my mom were really bored one day, and a friend came by," Dorothy explains—munching through an order of chips and salsa at Bongo Java one early evening—with exceeding politeness, mild fidgets and the casual nonchalance of an artist who gets asked about her work all the time. Several tables away, her mother Sarah sits reading a novel. "My dad and my brothers had just left to go to the YMCA, and my friend said, 'Well, I have some plain headbands and fabric, and I was going to save them for a special day when I was really, really bored.' "
That friend was bluegrass folk songstress Julie Lee, and that boredom equaled a headband wrapped in fabric with a large orange bow on top.
"Right when I made my first one, I knew it was going to be vintage and different, because it was made out of scrap fabrics," Dorothy says. A natural recycler, she would always rely on her mother's leftover scraps from the dresses or curtains she often sews, using them as the basis for her own future creations.
Dorothy's parents Sarah and David—she an artist and singer-songwriter, he the author of two acclaimed pop-culture studies with a theological bent—had somewhat serendipitously put down roots in boutique-friendly 12South. After frequent curious bike rides a few streets over to Magpie, Dorothy and her friends finally worked up the courage to go inside. They approached Guillet using fake names to check the place out, then properly introduced themselves after approving.
"Then I guess it wasn't until about a year later, she came in with this box full of headbands, just nervous as can be with her picture and a letter to customers," says Guillet, who describes Dorothy as simply an "ultra-cool kid."
After finessing the details, Guillet has agreed to showcase her work these last few months, and Dorothy has stayed busy with Mood Yogurt, a name she chose based on a recent daydream: a yogurt that changed color along with your mood. She occasionally runs her creations by friends to see what they think, and Guillet occasionally shows Dorothy techniques to improve her craft. (Magpie hopes to host workshops like a true arthouse soon.)
"I made a totally orange one with a black button on top," says Dorothy. "My friends saw it, and they were like, 'Whoa, that's ghetto.' But ghetto is good."
When the young artist thought of her audience, she didn't think of just anybody—preppy, for instance, was not a desirable aesthetic. She thought of risk-takers. Fearless fashion forwards. "I thought of anyone who wasn't intimidated by fashionable things, or someone who was maybe into older stuff," says the avid Clash and Ramones fan.
Currently, Dorothy has only 10 or 12 headbands for sale at Magpie at a time and makes more as time arises. She recently completed the Southern Girls Rock and Roll Camp in Murfreesboro, where she learned to play bass in a band called Forever Broken. She preferred her own band name idea, The Dead Chew Toys, but no one could agree, and after flipping a coin, Forever Broken won out. "It sounds too emo to me," she laments, "but I guess I'll just have to live with it."
Dorothy doesn't necessarily think of herself as a consumer advocate. But rather than selling her handmade items for a people-can-apparently-charge-anything-these-days price of $200, they go for only 8 to 12 bucks. (She originally wanted to sell them for only $2.)
And she doesn't necessarily see herself as part of some larger ideology, yet every single headband is thought-up, contemplated, handcrafted and one of a kind. The Slow Fashion movement—a loosely collected group of advocates of Taking Time To Make Things By Hand With Local Resources—would be proud to call Dorothy a poster child.
But in the meantime, she's still just that—a child. Albeit a child who likes learning about the past while adopting thoughtful approaches to the present—a far cry from the text-crazed, electronics-obsessed stereotype of these kids today.
"Lately, I've been writing with quill pens," she says. "Like, with feathers and stuff. I've used them for letters and journal writing."
But as with her peers, it's anyone's guess how long this particular fancy will stick—so the headbands may be a very limited-run edition. Dorothy isn't interested in taking the operation global.
"I'm glad it's small," she says. "I wouldn't want to be one of those big, rich people who are so famous and everything. I mean, I would be OK with that, I guess, but that's not exactly what I want. I just want to stay with a small business that people like, that's not so crazy and famous."
In other words, she wouldn't want it to be, like, her whole life or anything. If someone told her she had to do this forever, she'd be like, "Ohhhh, I quit."
She already has two other options worked out anyway.
"I want to be a movie rater," she confesses. "You know, the people who rate a movie and decide if it's PG-13, or R, or PG. It just seems fun for your job to be discussing with other people what you think something should be rated, and what you thought of it, and watching movies all day. It just sounds kind of fun. The other job, and this is weird, too, but I kind of want to be a taste tester. For all food. It just seems fun. And I really like food. I think it would be fun for your job to be just eating stuff and saying what you think."
The world always has room for another critic—but in Dorothy Dark's case, that's only if interior design, architecture, clothing designer, shoe designer, or just living in a log cabin doesn't work out.
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