By Carolyn Schweitz
Amber Jensen felt drawn to Marshall the moment she set foot there. Although the community is small, she found it to be open-minded and creative. Western North Carolina has long had a tradition of textile-based art, so Jensen was excited to create in such a rich area. Now, just a few years later, she has been awarded an Our State Made in NC Award in the Style category for her patchwork backpack. “When the award was announced, it was an affirmation,” says Jensen. “I am an NC maker. I have found my home.” The annual Made in NC Awards highlight some of the best of the state’s makers, bakers, crafters and creators, with an emphasis on creativity.
Jensen, along with her friend Hilary Nylander, is co-owner of the art studio and shop ha!, in downtown Marshall. Jensen and Nylander met more than two years ago and decided to combine forces to make ha! a realization. “Ha! was created from the belief that we are stronger together,” says Jensen. She tends to focus inwardly on her creative process, while Nylander thinks about the outward perception of a piece. Together, the two are a powerhouse duo. “When we look for a piece for the studio, we look for pieces that bring comfort or add joy,” says Nylander. “Pieces that make people smile or even laugh.”
Jensen creates her art through a variety of mediums including sewing, drawing, painting and weaving on floor looms. She loves textiles, especially wool felt which brims with creative possibility for her. “I try to keep traditional craft vibrant, dynamic and relevant,” she says. Her patchwork backpacks were inspired by both regional textile traditions and her own avid hiking in the Blue Ridge Mountains. “All of Amber’s work in some fashion captures elements of this beautiful region,” says Nylander. “The magical colors, flora and fauna—all the elements of the Blue Ridge Mountains—are present in her pieces.”
Nylander shares Jensen’s excitement over the Made in NC Award. “It is our biggest opportunity yet to share who ha! is, what we create and why we chose to build our business here in Marshall,” says Nylander. “We hope this award sheds light on our little mountain town and all the incredible talent that resides here.”
The town of Marshall is experiencing an artistic revitalization, with ha! a part of this new movement of artists creating and growing in an already historically creative area. “My greatest hope is that the newcomer artists and the generations of Marshall natives can support each other, helping this small town grow and flourish in a way that honors the past,” says Jensen. For Jensen and Nylander, ha! is one strand in the fabric of the rich tapestry that is Marshall.
Amber Jensen will be featured in the December 2019 issue of Our State. For more information, visit MarshallHa.com, call 828.680.1225, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or find on Facebook at ha or on Instagram @hereforha. Third Thursday Marshall, a monthly event with open galleries, businesses and restaurants, will be held on December 19 from 5–8 p.m.