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Sara Baldwin Designs Blog

The Beverly Hillbillies do Installation Photography

Or, Thelma and Louise take Exmore.

Since we are desperate for good photography, Christine (in charge of marketing, left) and I (trusty side-kick, right) sometimes try to be photographers.

We have several shots of mosaic installations that we want to nail down, and we need to style them so they don’t look naked. Out here in the country, photo shoots are an adventure waiting to happen–from sourcing props to our jury-rigged photography booms (we don’t have a local photographer at our beck and call–we have to take some shots ourselves).

I’m not sure if it’s a blessing or a curse, but I haven’t ever been afraid to try to figure out how to do something myself that most people would hire someone else to do. (Hmmm. I am now remembering a scene from my childhood–my father and I tapping maple trees to attempt to make maple syrup in Virginia, which is not a state known for its maple-syrup making. Now I know why.Perhaps this is an inherited trait.)

So. We’re located in the sticks.

See the little red dot? That’s Exmore, home to New Ravenna Mosaics, and like many small towns that were decimated by strip malls, it went through a boom and bust period. When I bought the abandoned shirt factory that is now New Ravenna in 1998, I heard it described as the “ugliest town south of Philadelphia”. Due to the Main Street USA program it’s recently received a face lift, and now on a good day it’s rather charming. The surrounding area is rural and coastal and removed from hustle bustle…people say it’s like Long Island 75 years ago.We think it’s romantic.

With the Chesapeake on our west, and the Atlantic to our east, this slender peninsula we call the Eastern Shore is only connected with the mainland USA (Maryland) by a few miles on the north side. Christine’s husband Gordon took these photos from one of his airplanes. They moved here from Connecticut so he could own his own grass strip airport, a life-long dream of his.

To the south is the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel–a 17 mile long engineering wonder that includes two tunnels. The $24 toll effectively deters most commuter traffic from the Norfolk/Va Beach area (thank goodness), so unlike Long Island, we have been blessed with some time to protect our natural resources, our rural (13,000 residents in Northampton County on a crowded day) and agrarian lifestyle, and retain our island mentality.

Unfortunately, we remain one of the poorest counties in the state, and New Ravenna has the dubious distinction of being one of the largest privately-owned businesses (with not quite 100 employees). Your dollars spent on New Ravenna mosaics go a long way in our local economy (thank you).

Therefore, it goes without saying that we do not have a Mecox Gardens from which to borrow props for our mosaic installation photos (see, I was getting back to our title theme). Or a local Rose-Tarlowe. What we do have is…Roses.

Do you need flowers? Roses has flowers!

Do you need statuary? Here you go!

Do you need pillows? Seriously, don’t laugh, we have actually used their pillows in photo shoots. Can you see them here? $5 each. (these are the photos where we used the jury-rigged booms)

Here we switched to an ikat throw, courtesy eBay (floor design– “Solid Ovals”):

I love a good general store. Every once in a while you find something that just might work. Christine and I found a sangria pitcher that will work great in a kitchen shoot on Thursday.

Resourcefulness is a virtue, right? Next door to Roses is the Ace hardware, which I also love. While searching for all those non-photographic studio bulbs I took this awesome photo to share with all you form/function aficionados…

Hint: the bottom line of print declares “makes plants look healthier and greener” (emphasis mine). I am not kidding. It doesn’t make your plants greener and healthier–it makes your plants look greener and healthier…when it shines on them. If you can understand why this cracked me up, then you understand my sense of humor.

But again I digress. Below is a pretty awful “before” photo of my kitchen which is one of the shots scheduled for a “real” photo shoot with a professional photographer on Thursday.

A beautiful “Ikebana” back-splash has now been installed–see the detail below of Bobby making it. How do you think we should style this shot? I was able to locate about 11 overpriced artichokes yesterday…

Christine and I have this crazy idea that installation photos sell mosaics. Okay, maybe we have good evidence to back up our theory, and hell, it works for the Rug Company, so yes, I’m being facetious, but it’s a tall order to get clients to send you good installation shots even when you offer a $500 prize for the best one! So off to Roses and Ace Hardware, A to Z used furniture and eBay we go. I can’t wait to share some more of our booty.

6 Responses to “The Beverly Hillbillies do Installation Photography”

  1. karen Quam says:

    Sara and Christine, what can I say? I just had NO idea. Really. Surprised by the location–for some reason I thought that you were located in the middle of the state of Virginia. Wow, was I wrong. Loved this story, loved the store "Roses". You captured your challenges so delightfully. Of course when you are creating something as beautiful as solid ovals it speaks for itself.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Great story- great pictures- great products. I'll bet the crab cakes are great as well. When can I come visit? Jim "gueuzeman"

  3. mona says:

    Sara & Christine- do you have photos of the completed kitchen shoot?
    checkout our website if you're looking for a professional photographer. We shoot & style for architects & designer's portfolios as well as national design publications.

  4. Hey Sara & Christine,
    If you're looking for a local photographer…well I'm local, Cape Charles…. check out my website. http://www.chrisglennon.com
    I have done work for Blue Heron, Schneider Development, Shore Memorial and recently shooting the bands at Kelly's Pub.
    I would be willing to do some free comp work to show my worth.

  5. Mick Mayers says:

    I wandered over to your blog by way of the New Ravenna site; my wife is the owner of KPM Flooring in Hilton Head Island, SC and we love your tiles. As an author and blogger (firehousezen.com) I enjoyed your blog as well. Keep up the great work, both tile and blog (and photography, it seems).

  6. Wonderful stuff, Sara! And now I know I'll be seeing you again, because my partner is a pilot, and we'll be flying in to Campbell Airport sometime the end of June/early July to have a nice weekend in Cape Charles! I also want you to "friend" Laura Jens (Interior View is her blog) on Facebook- very talented designer here with whom you may be able to network. Tell her I sent you! :)

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About Me

Sara BaldwinSara Baldwin

Exmore, Virginia, United States

New Ravenna Mosaics founder and Creative Director, Owner, Sara Baldwin Design, Bass guitar player, Envisioner, Appreciator of the Sublime and Ridiculous.


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