At an early age, Allison’s parents recognized her creativity. She started small, making use of whatever she had: bedazzling, and adding her personal version of beauty to ordinary objects. In high school, she became so interested in the exotic art of glass blowing that she attended a specialized camp to learn more. It was there that she realized something new. “I loved it, realized it [the camp] was affiliated with the college, and it just sort of dawned on me that, ‘I can do art for the rest of my life.’ It was a breakthrough.” The realization made attending college all the more exciting. But once there, surrounded by new and fascinating options, her attentions soon drew elsewhere. “I just couldn’t figure out what I loved enough to do it for the rest of my life. Then I found fiber arts, and it was awesome. I loved every aspect of it. I had never even sat at a loom before.”
All too soon after finding Fiber Arts, Allison graduated, married her now husband, Roger, and moved to Huntsville, AL, where weaving took a backseat to part-time jobs that brought home some extra cash. But the house that she and Roger rented as young newlyweds had one, very serious problem: an unsightly floor vent that desperately needed covering. Out of instinct, Allison decided to weave something to cover the vent herself. She carefully threaded her loom and went to work. When she was finished, she had successfully woven a rug to the exact size of the vent. “Looking back on it, it was terrible,” she tells us. But it worked! More importantly, the excitement of using her skills to make useful things created momentum.
Though a small feat to her in hindsight, creating anything from scratch is an immeasurable achievement common to all of humanity. Even our flops actualize our innate need to make things with our hands. At its most basic level, creating anything is one of the closests connections we have to divine nature. Creating something of beauty, even closer.
She and Roger had only recently moved to Nashville when Allison got her first big break into professional weaving. Up until then, she had featured her products exclusively on Etsy under the name Shutters and Shuttles, an ode to her love of weaving (shuttles) and photography (shutters). She was asked to be a part of a local makers show periodically held at West Elm in Nashville, curated by a local, high-profile blogger. Naturally she was honored, but quickly discovered that it wasn’t just flattery – she sold more in one day than she ever had before! It was the push she needed.
In 2011, she applied for Porter Flea, a juried event showcasing the most talented artisans, designers, and artists in the area. Lines spill out of the entrance twice a year, the inside bursting with talented makers and eager supporters. It helped put Allison on the makers map in Nashville, and soon started to cut into the time she spent at her part-time day jobs. Each time the show rolled around, “two months before, I would have to quit whatever silly part-time job I had and weave.” Eventually, her success practically forced her to making weaving her full-time career, one that she never truly believed was possible.
Allison’s path to creating beauty in handwoven fabrics has required equal parts bravery and skill. On the journey to where she is now, Allison says that one of the most terrifying things about running her business was moving into her own studio. After months of trying to squeeze her giant looms into their home, she decided it was time. So with the money from her sales at the most recent Porter Flea, she packed up and moved into her very own space. Or rather, one that she shares with three other designers. And she’s made the most of it, consistently keeping her volume and sales up to pay rent and bills on the studio every month since she moved in. “I made it my mission that I needed to make a living to support this if that’s what I want to do.”