Matthews Makers

Donna Sappington: An Artist's Heart

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Artist and Matthews-resident Donna Sappington’s success as an artist is the result of talent, authenticity, and following her heart.

A military “brat” who has lived all over the world, adventure is the seed for Donna’s creativity. Her spirit is palpable and a large part of the charm imbued in her artwork.

Donna came into art mid-life. After a long career in department store retail, staying ahead of trends and behind the scenes as a fragrance buyer, Donna jumped ship to follow her heart and pursue her passion for creating and selling her own art.  Perhaps that buying stint instilled in her the optimistic directness that is necessary to navigate life as an artist.

That metaphorical jump paired well with her literally jumping ship: Donna is an avid diver. Her adventures underwater often inspire sea-themed paintings that guide the viewer through a different world, an underwater universe where the paint on her paintbrush is the tour guide.

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Whether working out of her home studio or with her arts family at McDowell Arts Center, Donna is building a cohesive portfolio with seemingly disparate approaches. Be it an abstract poured-painting of water, a rhinestone mixed-media canvas that recalls the pattern of a sea urchin, or a fanciful fairy sitting on a toadstool, each piece has Donna’s signature style, her own authentic artistic fingerprint. Under the moniker Tangled Line Designs, Donna’s paintings are, in fact, made of tangled lines, but with a charming deliberateness that takes her work far beyond doodling.

With each piece, Donna grows more and more sure-footed. As an artist, she’s always pushing to do better and perfect her approach. While there’s always a note of those zentangles, the doodling style that brought her into art, it’s an eye for color and pizzazz (without becoming garish) that are evolving into something spectacularly Donna.  Often applying a hint of flair that hearkens back to her corporate days, glitter and rhinestones add a whimsical touch and bring Donna’s imaginative fairies and mermaids to life. 

Donna and her art are colorful proof that following your heart leads to adventure and inspiration. 

Mark Frye: Alchemist of Love

They had endured innumerable crises and experiences; their love was a story for the ages. Harry and Carla Workman turned to Matthews jeweler Mark Frye to capture their constant faith and love in wearable form.

Photo courtesy Mark Frye

Photo courtesy Mark Frye

When long-time jeweler, Mark Frye, manager of Trade Street Jewelers (100 West John Street), was asked to create a one-of-a-kind necklace for the Workman family, last fall, he knew little about the back story and the long journey which was about to unfold right before his eyes.

His clients, Harry and Carla Workman of Mint Hill, had previously lived a 15-year family journey – starting with Carla taking on Harry’s three children at marriage, to Carla’s subsequent diagnosis with cancer. Then, four years ago, her mother was diagnosed with brain cancer (and passed).

The original design created by Harry Workman’s daughter.

The original design created by Harry Workman’s daughter.

They had endured innumerable crises and experiences; this was a story for the ages, said Harry, who had all along imagined an infinity symbol with an anchor as an indelible image reflecting their constant faith and love.

And, so, he asked his daughter to create such an image; they also toyed with getting matching tattoos on their ring fingers. Then, one day, last year, he got a tattoo of such an anchor on his forearm and went home to show his wife.

She said, “I’m not going to get a tattoo like that!” But, she had a thought: to create a likeness of that same image using pieces of both her mother’s jewelry and her own. Who better to ask this of but her beloved jeweler, Mark.

By using the images provided, Mark would make a three-dimensional piece of what was two dimensional. Together with a designer from Texas, who cast the piece, the result would allow “the full design with the breaks and wraps” which you can’t see on the flat image.

At points, Mark says, he and the Workmans were in touch so often that their conversations eclipsed those he’d usually have with his family or children. One month later, the final creation was born.

Photo courtesy Mark Frye

Photo courtesy Mark Frye

“I love the symbol of all of it,” said Carla. “It’s beautiful,” she said, adding that she wears it all the time. To secure the free-dangling hooks, Mark eventually put the three-dimensional piece on a solid shape of white gold so that the fragile end pieces wouldn’t break or get caught on clothing.

“The tattoo has become a story of our love story,” Harry said. “The emblem has become a family crest. [Now] Carla wears precious metal from the precious family. [Our symbol] is memorialized from this medallion that Mark made so beautifully.”

Although Mark is often asked to make custom pieces, this experience has touched his heart and cemented his relationship with the Workmans. “This was a unique experience,” he said. “This was different because it had a story that had deep sentiment to them - that was the significance.” Add in the request “coming from an already great customer,” and the result meant a lot to Mark, too. It is work which gives his talents and skills even greater meaning.

In the future, Harry doesn’t think that any more anchors will be created for family members, but he and Carla have their own design, forever. “It’s something really special between us,” said Carla. “That we’re always going to be bound together…in infinity.”

Kind of like their relationship with Mark.

Photo courtesy Harry Workman

Photo courtesy Harry Workman

Trade Street Jewelers
100 W John St, Matthews
(704) 321-7944

M - F 10 a.m. til 5 p.m.
Sa 10 a.m. til 4 p.m.

Bethany Salisbury: Capturing Pets in Paints

Photo of Bethany Salisbury courtesy the artist

Photo of Bethany Salisbury courtesy the artist

I’m lucky to be able to do [this work]. It’s been my passion since I was a kid. I love animals and I love to paint.

Bethany Salisbury, 31, of Matthews, knows a thing or two about pets and pet portraits. That would be nearly 900 things to be exact – the number of pet portraits painted by Bethany in the last handful of years.

A commercial artist, illustrator, and designer, Bethany has had much success with her pet portraiture, illustration and traditional paintings. And, while it is “80% dogs,” it’s also cats, rabbits, horses, birds, elephants, goats, a few ferrets, and sometimes people.

The series "Beer Dogs" will soon be on display at Temple Mojo in downtown Matthews.  Photo by Cyma Shapiro

The series "Beer Dogs" will soon be on display at Temple Mojo in downtown Matthews. Photo by Cyma Shapiro

Since her mainstay is on social media, and with online orders, her clients come from all over the world (Australia, Africa, Hong Kong, to name a few places) and throughout the country. “I get a lot of repeat customers,” she said. “Many buy these for gifts.”

A childhood spent at art camp and in private art lessons, with minimal TV watching and maximum encouragement to create, combined with a love of animals led her to do just that: create paper dolls, make graphic novels and comic books about dogs.

“I’ve always grown up with animals,” she said.

The series "Beer Dogs" will soon be on display at Temple Mojo in downtown Matthews.  Photo by Cyma Shapiro

The series "Beer Dogs" will soon be on display at Temple Mojo in downtown Matthews. Photo by Cyma Shapiro

While she captures the often impassioned and enamored looks of her subjects - “I think dogs are expressive,” she said. “I think it’s kind of second nature (to intuit their) emotions” - she is also not immune to the whiles of animals, herself. Bethany and her husband are the proud owners of one Miniature Long Haired Dachshund, Mochi, and an Australian Cattle Dog named River.

“I’m lucky to be able to do [this work]” said Bethany. “It’s been my passion since I was a kid. I love animals and I love to paint.”

Matthews Chamber of Commerce Gingerbread Contest

The Chamber of Commerce Gingerbread display comes down this Friday, and if you missed it you can get a taste of the designs here, but the photos don’t do the details justice. Make sure to check it out in person before 5 p.m. on Friday when the Chamber office in the Depot closes.

Read about one family’s annual tradition participating in the contest.

Matthews Chamber of Commerce | 210 Matthews Station St., Matthews (In the train depot building) | P: 704.847.3649 | Monday - Friday: 9 am - 5 pm

Morning Minute: Friday, December 7, 2018

News About and Around Town: There is a Board of Commissioners meeting this Monday, and it’s overflowing with agenda items. At 5:30, before the actual meeting, Commissioners will meet to discuss zoning for the warehouse property on East John St.

Following the discussion, at 6 PM, is a reception honoring Planning Director Kathi Ingrish, who is retiring this year.

During the regular Council meeting, the floor will be open for public comment on several rezoning applications. Application 2018-691 is for a mixed-use development which will include 121 townhomes on three acres at Idlewild and I-485. One property on West John is an application to rezone a residential lot, R-20, to office, O(CD). A third rezoning item, 2018-693, is simply to update the land use code for several properties in Crestdale to match the current Unified Develpment Ordinance.

The Board may vote on several items on Monday, including rezoning property on the Novant Hospital Campus to allow for office building construction. The Small Area Plan Overlays are back, the Board will once again have the opportunity to approve or deny the plans.

Beyond planning, the agenda contains fairly typical meeting items but there are a few worth noting. When NCDOT begins Independence Blvd improvements it will be up to the town to choose and fund pedestrian/bicycling improvements through the corridor. The Board will discuss this Monday night. They will consider the John Street Working Group's design and decide for or against adoption. Another item up for consideration is the 2019 Legislative Agenda, which lays out the expectations of the Town’s role in governing in tandem with the NC General Assembly. 


One Fun Thing: If it’s not snowin’-up-a-storm this Saturday, we’ll be out at The Loyalist (435 North Trade St.) with Good Cup Coffee for our second Hyperlocal Holiday Pop Up of the season! Warm up with a bowl of The Loyalist’s legend(wait for it)ary soup, then stroll the pocket park in the side yard and shop handmade-wares while sipping on the tummy warming goodness of Good Cup cocoa. 

The Dreamweavers Guild of Matthews


On the first Tuesday of each month, from 6-9 p.m. at the McDowell Arts Center, you will find one to two dozen people, all members of the Dreamweavers of Matthews Basket Guild, diligently and creatively weaving baskets, containers and other related (and usable) wares.  

The beneficiary of their creations is the Matthews Free Medical Clinic.

(In another annual charitable gesture of goodwill, participating members have already created “Baskets of Love,” which will be filled with items of their discretion and given to their “adopted families” for the upcoming holidays.)

For 30 year basket weaver, Nancy Duffie, of Weddington, this is a chance to meet new people, share a love of basket weaving and learn new techniques.  “I am a joiner. I love support groups and community building…I look forward to each meeting to visit, catch up on the latest happenings in everyone's life and sometimes I will weave a basket!” she said. Members come from several communities in this region.

According to the group’s Facebook page administrator, Sharon Williams of Matthews, long-time members are “devoted to teaching their crafts to the next generation of weavers to keep the craft alive.” Once a year, the group also hosts a weaving weekend with a nationally recognized teacher. “It’s a great opportunity to learn new techniques without the expense of traveling,” said Williams.

Basket weaving is the process of weaving or sewing pliable materials into two- or three-dimensional objects, such as containers, mats or trays. In the Dreamweavers’ case, the baskets are usually made of reed or cane, but may also be made from paper or found objects such as antlers, twigs, pine needles, and even leaves from tropical plants. Members usually purchase their materials through North and South Carolina retailers - to help support local artists.

I like to help people see that basket weaving is more than they think it is. Some of our pieces are complex works of art.  
— Sharon Williams

 “I like to help people see that basket weaving is more than they think it is,” Williams said.  “Some of our pieces are complex works of art.  There are even specialty baskets in the Smithsonian!”

While camaraderie, connection and a strong sense that their outlay will benefit others are all important reasons why most members have joined the Guild, there’s also a commonality surrounding the art and creativity of basket weaving that runs paramount to this group. “It amazes me that our little Guild of about 20 people has over 200 followers on Facebook,” said Williams. “I think that means there is a connection to handmade art that people love.”

 Dreamweavers Guild of Matthews:  First Tuesday of each month, 6-9 PM, McDowell Arts Center, 123 E McDowell St, Matthews, NC.





Get Hyperlocal this holiday season

If you haven’t checked out the Hyperlocal Holiday Gift Guide, we went live this past Friday and it’s good. REALLY REALLY GOOD.

Our participants are truly small businesses working extra hard to earn your support. From financial coaching to custom jewelry, from sleds at Renfrow’s to delightful desserts, there’s something to satisfy everyone’s tastes (mmmm…ice cream cake). Treat your bestie to a reiki session then treat yourself to some luxurious handmade bath bombs.

Check out the gift guide then get to (hyperlocal) shopping!

Matthews Meets the European Food Scene

Two transplants to Matthews are forging their way into the food scene and are bringing a slice of their heritage and roots with them.

Both Marci Dagenhardt’s Marci’s European Sweets and StrudelTeig, a food truck bakery owed by Marvin and Cora Adcock, are using recipes and recipe books provided by their grandparents. They represent the latest wave of ethnic food-vendors who are changing the palette and cultural landscape in and around Matthews. Both have been in business for approximately one year.  

Marci, originally from the Czech Republic, started baking when she was very young – especially Christmas cookies – a time-worn annual family tradition. Originally schooled in hospitality, Marci moved to the US to be a nanny.  After marrying, she turned to baking as a way to remain connected to her homeland. It also brought her enormous comfort.


When Marci’s beloved 93-year-old grandmother sent her 1947 recipe book last Christmas, she took it as a “sign” and began baking in earnest for others. She and her husband recently built their 4800 square foot home in Matthews, complete with a separate kitchen intended for her growing business. Not only does she now bake for a living, but the actual preparation and being in the separate kitchen space provide a way to relieve stress daily.

She fondly speaks of using marzipan as an ingredient, has baked many new European-style goods to find the perfect fit for her business, and constantly searches for new Czech recipes to add to her growing offerings. Recently, her cousin in the Czech Republic sent her a new fudge recipe – it’s all a way to remain connected to her family. Of her grandmother’s feelings?  “She loves it,” Marci said. “She’s so proud.”

And, now, it’s a new way to connect with others.

“I try to bring (food) to people to open their mind,” said Marci, noting that many people stop in to tell her about their grandparents who come from Europe. “I (sometimes) say, ‘Wow, I’m not here by myself!’ “

Moravian gingerbread, Linzer cookies, honey cake, poppy seed cookies, Bohemian and Moravian kolache, rugelach, and marshmallow fondant cake are just a few of her specialties. This is not just about business, she insists, but about “bringing people joy. …and experience something new… Sweet can be sweet, but not sugary-sweet (like in America). I want to help American people know the culture.  I want people to experience that there are (foods) different than what’s here." To get an authentic flavor, she imports some ingredients from the Czech Republic. She also ships her baked goods across the US.

Marvin Adcock brought together his desire to work for himself with the culture and cuisine of his Austrian-born wife, Cora (with a nod to some German and Swiss-cuisine specialties, and incorporating the cuisine of other  European/Eastern European countries). “My passion was to cook for people and use the recipes from her background,” he said. Last year, they purchased a food truck. “There are no European food trucks” around here, said Cora, who has drawn from country-favorites and used some recipes from her grandfather’s restaurant in Austria.

The couple takes pride in their all-natural, locally-sourced ingredients.

Their truck offers a way to be mobile and cater to many different crowds. They use their food truck for “foods that take less time to prepare” which include pretzels, Viennese Apple strudel, and Bavarian pretzel melt (grilled cheese), to name a few. They’ve also started a separate catering business which is quickly growing to include things like Speckknödel, Schweinebraten, Viennese Gulasch, Hungarian Krautstrudel, and Käsespätzle.


They, too, say that international travelers and fellow Austrians/Europeans come up to the truck in search of authentic foods they can’t find elsewhere.

While both companies have a strong online presence (for ordering), in the future, both groups would like to own small European cafés. For Marvin, that would be intended to serve breakfast foods; Marci would like a European coffee shop (adding on her husband’s passion for coffee) with two separate areas – one for people who wish to have quiet and the other side for “moms with kids.” “Every woman from my family goes to the coffee shop on Thursday…we talk….and the kids can play together. They serve small sandwiches, sweet stuff and have peace,” she said with a smile, noting that she is now the mother of a newborn.

For both entities, the opportunity to share their respective cultures here is not lost, nor taken for granted. “It’s not just food,” said Cora, adding that she also posts photos of Austria, on their site, to give a broader overview of the beauty of the country. “I think that the greatest part of America is the ability to live your culture (freely) here,” said Marvin.

Fried Turkeys the J Bones Way

Photo courtesy of Jerome Brooks

Photo courtesy of Jerome Brooks

Jerome Brooks has been married for 29 years. For the first 10 years of marriage, his wife would do all the cooking; he would “grill.”

Photo by Cyma Shapiro

Photo by Cyma Shapiro

But, in 1999, when he left his job and started working for himself, his days sometimes ended early. He’d soon be responsible for taking care of his two daughters after they got out of school, and also cooking supper for the family (wife, Alicia, is a lawyer). “When she got home,” he said, “the food was ready.”

In the beginning, he’d do “basic stuff” – stuff like spaghetti, fried chicken, beef, cube steaks and Gumbo – basic family food that he’d grown up with in Louisiana.  “I had a pretty good sense of taste,” said Jerome.

After a while, he bought a Kitchen Aid mixer. His wife told him straight-out that she wasn’t going to use it herself.  His answer? “I guess I’ve got to learn how to cook a cake!” And voila – out came his special pound cake with five flavors.

All along, he continued cooking his very special turkeys – both deep fried and smoked - a tradition that began during the holidays with family and friends and extended to his work. Also, his church (Mt. Moriah) came calling.

Photo courtesy Jerome Brooks

Photo courtesy Jerome Brooks

“My turkey (cooking) started when deep-frying turkeys (became popular),” said Jerome. He soon learned that aluminum didn’t crisp his turkeys the way that stainless steel pots did. He also purchased a (regular) two-bird electric smoker.  “What made me fall for the frying – I love the crispy taste,” he said. “I love it for the taste and it’s crispy. When you do it in aluminum, sometimes it’s not as crisp.”

In truth, after tasting this new type of cooked turkey, he never went back. “When I first tried a fried turkey, I didn’t want another baked turkey,” he said. Apparently, neither did his friends, family, fellow parishioners, and co-workers. So began the experimenting.

“I started off with one flavor and found another one that was better,” he said. He found the magic taste with “certain seasonings, liquid, apple and hickory wood.”  He says his turkeys are like a Cajun turkey – “with Cajun seasoning, so it’s got a nice little spice to it.”

While he cooked turkeys up to 10 hours, he found the timing was too long; he settled on five hours of cook time. Instead of basting his liquids and seasonings on the outside of the bird, he decided to inject the mixture.  “All of those juices are trapped inside. People are amazed at how good they are,” said Jerome. “Each year, I’m always learning something.”

He originally used peanut oil but found Canola oil as an alternative for those people with peanut allergies.

As time went on, demand for his cooked turkeys continued to soar. So much so that he’d need to start cooking Thanksgiving turkeys a few days in advance, especially if his family was traveling for the holidays. “A couple of years in a row, I did 15, 16 turkeys,” he said, noting that he wanted to give them their cooked turkeys closer to the holiday. “I wanted people to have fresh turkey on Thanksgiving.” Last year, he cooked eight a few days before Thanksgiving and ended up staying up way past midnight.

Then, as things started snowballing, his wife put her foot down. “My wife said ‘wait a minute.” When this went into (our) dinnertime, she said, ‘you’re gonna have to say no.’ More people want me to do them than I have time to do. That’s how I was running into my dinnertime,” he said.

Jerome attributes his popular turkeys to much trial and error and a great cooking technique: the key, he says, is how you drop the bird into the fryer – SLOWLY – so that the oil cannot bubble up and cause a fire.

Photo by Cyma Shapiro

Photo by Cyma Shapiro

But, then, four years ago, he ate lamb at a friend’s house and didn’t like the strong meat-taste. He said, “I’m gonna come up with a recipe that I like!” and his special lamb dish was born. “It’s not just turkey (now) - my thing is now lamb,” he said, noting that he cooked his signature dish for a Valentine’s Day party this year and also cooks it regularly for his pastor.

In the future, he plans to get a “J Bones” food truck and cook his signature lamb and turkey, in addition to ribs and chicken. “There’s a lot of other stuff I’d like to do,” he said. “But, I’ll start off slowly.”

Caroline Kramb: The Hidden Strength of a Snowflake

Photo credit: Ally Henning

Photo credit: Ally Henning

When the curtain goes up for the “Nutcracker,” danced by the Matthews Ballet and Dance, at the McDowell Community Center, one dancer in the group will be happy to be alive, well, and again dancing in this year’s production.

Matthews resident, Caroline Kramb, has been dancing with this group since she was four years old.  She is now 15 and has taken on such roles as Angel, the lead – Clara, Chinese, Ginger Child, Waltz of the Flowers, Candy Cane, Spanish, Gold Angels, Party Girl and Soldier.

This year, as in previous years, she will exude the joy and passion that dancing invokes in many. “Caroline is a dedicated student with a passion for dance,” said dance studio Program Director Amanda Sheppard. “She loves performing onstage, and is always a joy to watch.” This year, she will dance the part of “Snowflake.”

Also, as she has in previous years, Caroline will be grateful for this opportunity. However when she performs, many in the audience will be unaware of her ongoing serious medical struggles, her courageous approach to her illness, and her willingness to share her story in an effort to fundamentally help others.

Approximately 2 1/2 years ago, at the age of 12, Caroline developed a severe rash and became extremely tired. What her family thought would be a common trip to the doctor turned out to much more serious. Her bloodwork showed that she had a rare blood disorder called idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP).  Systems include low platelets and chronic bleeding. “We were in utter shock,” said her mother, Brooke.

Upon diagnosis, Caroline was rushed to Levine’s Children’s Hospital for a short stay and subsequent 18 months of treatments including infusions and heavy doses of steroids – protocols that left her feeling weak, tired and sick.

“It was hard for me with dancing, just going to school and just living my normal life,” said Caroline. “I had to push myself much harder than the other girls. (Although I knew) I am just as healthy and strong as the other girls… (I had an) autoimmune disorder. I looked good, but you couldn’t tell I had to work harder.”

At points, she missed days of school after eight-hour treatments needed every six to eight weeks – “all of that was very emotional,”  she said. She was also banned from (her) competitive swimming and all activities for which there might be a propensity for getting hurt (should she fall, hurt or bruise herself, it could cause internal bleeding). Both she and her mother, Brooke, said she felt “embarrassed” to not be able to do things that other kids could do, and longed to just “be like others.”

With that in mind, she ardently chose to continue her weekly dance lessons and maintain her participation in the annual Nutcracker productions.

“I just get really excited for the Nutcracker,” said Caroline. “I’ve had dance in my life longer than anything else I’ve ever done. Being able to (dance in) the Nutcracker every year (gives me) a sense of assurance. When I was a lot sicker, a lot weaker, I still had that event to look forward to, to participate in.”

To her dance teachers and fellow dancers, keeping this routine was paramount to keeping her spirits up. “I know that dance is (Caroline’s) “happy place” and her way to escape her illness,” said Sheppard. “She shows such amazing resilience for someone so young. I think dance has given her the strength to never give up but to always remain determined and focused.” 

Photo courtesy Michael Strauss Studio

Photo courtesy Michael Strauss Studio

According to Brooke, the Nutcracker and Caroline’s continued participation in dance lessons (two hours/week for dance classes; up to five hours a week during Nutcracker rehearsals), as well as her family, friends and faith all “helped her cope as well as thrive.”

During her second stay in the hospital, in the chemo-bays, she saw young kids playing but realized that older children had nothing to do with themselves during this stressful and difficult time. The “lightbulb” went off. Caroline said to her mother, “For my birthday, I want to invite my friends, but I want them to give donations so we can make our ‘bags.’ ”

The “activity bags,” as they were called, were intended to be filled with “things to do.” To date, she has made and delivered close to 100 bags and also made several hundred bracelets to pay for the bags, all of which are donated to children/teens also undergoing treatment at Levine Children’s Hospital.  

Caroline has also become an ITP activist.  Two years ago, she started her own Instagram page called “World Free of ITP,” which she created to “express my feelings…I would talk about when I had to go to the hospital and my thoughts about the journey - to (help others) understand how real this disorder is.”

Photos by Brooke Kramb

Photos by Brooke Kramb

Last summer, she applied for and received a scholarship to attend an ITP conference in Cleveland, Ohio, where she met with other teens struggling with the same issue, and those hematologists who care for them.

“Before I was sick, I was the wimpiest and weakest person out there,” said Caroline. “I’d cry when I got shots. I wouldn’t take pills. But, after going through all that, I honestly didn’t have a choice. I had to push myself to get stronger and get over my fears. I honestly think it happened for a reason…Coming out of being sick, I just knew, ‘I just want to help other people….so they don’t have to go through this.’ ”

Caroline now wants to be hematologist. When she turns 16, she has been invited to shadow her lead hematologist at the children’s hospital.

Today, Caroline’s platelets are stable and she is considered in remission (there is no cure for ITP). She remains fixated on the goal of learning more and helping others. “Definitely the way she has reached out to others – she has done this entirely on her own,” said Brooke.

Photos by (L) Brooke Kramb, (R) Ally Henning

Photos by (L) Brooke Kramb, (R) Ally Henning

“Because I have ITP, it is like an obligation to know everything; to be informed and understand the doctors because I want to help others,” said Caroline. “I want to help understand even other blood disorders because I want to know how to give back and find other ways to help.”

For more information, contact the Platelets Disorder Support Association.


The Matthews Ballet and Dance Center’s production of “The Nutcracker” will be performed Nov. 24, 25, Dec. 1 & 2 at Matthews Community Center, 100 McDowell Street.  

For tickets, contact or call 704-321-7275.

John Caudle: Rancher of the Airwaves

Photo by    Pressly Williams

For many townspeople, beekeeper John Caudle’s story is already well known. A landscaper. Third-generation farmer, running a tree nursery and tree farm. Nearly ten years ago, a diagnosis of Stage 4C tonsil cancer brought him to death’s doorstep. A last night of gasping breath, with no energy to get out of his chair brought on a vision of Jesus and then a blackout.

The next morning he was alive and breathing.

To hear him say it, he was, in effect, instantly reborn; his new life begun. He also proudly states that he has been in remission ever since.

Townspeople may also know that he originally sought out another career when he was too weak to continue his old one and fell into beekeeping; that his first harvest of honey produced dead bees and that he is now the proud owner of “Herb’s Honey,” a pure raw honey product which isn’t heated or mixed with corn syrup. His product is sold at farmer’s markets, Renfrow’s Hardware store in Matthews, honey markets and Earth Fare stores. (He also sells to a Raleigh bottler who mixes his honey with corn syrup to make “honey sauce.”)

Photo by Cyma Shapiro

Photo by Cyma Shapiro

There are days when I’m there by myself…..I can be in the middle of 20 million bees and it’s like…all of sudden it’s as if they’re talking with me. I don’t understand bees, but there is a hum and a series of pitches of hums that they give to me.
— John Caudle

Fun Bee Facts

  • Honey bees fly at a speed of around 15 m.p.h. and beat their wings 200 times per second!

  • Each bee has 170 odorant receptors, which means they have one serious sense of smell! They use this to communicate within the hive and to recognize different types of flowers when looking for food.

      (Source: National Geographic Kids online)

Today, at age 62, he feels deeply and fervently that his honey is a creation that helped save his life and can help heal others. He speaks lovingly of his “girls” – the tens of thousands of bees he owns in his over 1,000 honey boxes located in seven counties and those in his direct family – a wife, two daughters, one granddaughter and another on the way, all of whom now help or will hopefully help him in the future with the business.

“I like the bees,” Caudle said. “There are days when I’m there by myself…..I can be in the middle of 20 million bees and it’s like…all of sudden it’s as if they’re talking with me. I don’t understand bees, but there is a hum and a series of pitches of hums that they give to me.”  

“I feel as if God has made me as one with his children – the bees,” he said. “God has created them. It’s nothing I did. This is 100% a gift of God.”

To go along with these sentiments are an ongoing, nonstop rumination about some aspect of his business that he must tend to, learn about, work with or grow. “(You) wake up in the middle of the night and your mind is running a million miles/hour. That’s God talking with you,” he said. “In the morning, I’ve got this new plan or direction.”

Photo by    Pressly Williams

His bees are called hybrid Russians. He sells 100,000 pounds of honey each year. In peak production time (April – August), his boxes (colony) yield 50-70,000 bees, each.   One hundred and ten of those boxes are located in Matthews.

Talking from his honey lot located in Renfrow Farms on West Charles Street in Matthews, he expresses pure joy at being able to do something he feels fundamentally passionate about and which he sees as a direct result of his relationship to God. “This is all a gift and a direction by God; this is not of my doing,” said Caudle, who by his own admission was missing a “personal relationship with God,” before his life-threatening illness changed his life.

While he said he often prays in his truck, upon entrance to his honey box areas, he also says a brief “thank you” to his Creator for giving him his bees. “God, thank you – look at them, they are all alive. Oh, thank you God,” he said.

A walk around his honey boxes becomes a thing of joy, with Caudle extolling the beauty of his bees (this time of year - yellow, black, orange, or gray in color), the beauty of his boxes (originally marked with simple logos which his bee-teachers said were a necessity to steer the bees to the correct boxes), the importance of his Queens (carefully picked by him and sometimes killed and replaced by him out of necessity for survival of that colony), excitedly sampling the variety of honey smells (lifting the box lids to sniff the differing aromas), often sampling his own wares (up to two to three pounds/day).

Caudle is a man content with using a pine needle smoker to spray over his body, rather than use full body or other cover-up gear. His mission is to be with and get as close as possible to his bees/colonies/boxes.

“We are ranchers of the airwaves,” said Caudle. “They fly up and away – up to two miles, collecting pollen for the preservation of their hives, bringing nectar back for the hives.”

In Matthews, his honey lot and participation in selling his wares at Renfrow’s was a serendipity of circumstances. Seven years ago, Renfrow’s owner David Blackley was seeking a way to better pollinate some of his crops which weren’t doing well (butternut squash and zucchini); Caudle’s brother wanted to encourage him to pursue beekeeping, which was in its infancy. They struck a deal: 10 initial boxes on about 1/3 acres located on the now nine-acre farm. That year, the crops were a significantly better yield, and so the partnership, John’s business and Renfrow’s crops flourished.

“It is very good honey,” said Blackley, “...some of the best in Mecklenburg Country. It’s a great addition to the farm sales. We’re pleased that the hives have done well.  John has done a great job of keeping them,” Blackley said. “We like the fact that it’s unpasteurized and has no commercial agriculture happening (around the location) for three miles.”

This is clearly a man in love – in love with all his “girls,” as he calls them; in love with life and in love with his life.  

So, what does the future hold? More time with his daughters, his grandchildren and a possible doubling of his hives.

“Everything is a timeline,” he said. “I love my creator. I love my family. I love my bees.”

We are ranchers of the airwaves. They fly up and away – up to two miles, collecting pollen for the preservation of their hives, bringing nectar back for the hives.
— John Caudle
Photo by    Pressly Williams

Did you know? Over the past 15 years, colonies of bees have been disappearing; the reason remains unknown. Referred to as ‘colony collapse disorder,’ billions of honey bees across the world are leaving their hives, never to return. In some regions, up to 90% of bees have disappeared. (Source: National Geographic Kids online)

Don't Miss Bee-haven

Photo by Cyma Shapiro

Photo by Cyma Shapiro

While scouting Little Free Libraries, this roving reporter found one with a particularly stunning backdrop, a mural of sunflowers painted on the homeowner's fence. The mural “Bee Haven,” 1718 Privette Road, was created by Indian Trail artist Tersia Brooks whose Matthews-public artworks can be found on the obelisk at Country Place Park on South Trade Street and a turtle painting on a storm drain in Four Mile Creek Greenway.

According to Tersia, “Bee Haven” represents what someone would see as if there was a hole in the fence, and is a nod to the pollinator passion of its owners and many others in Matthews, NC.

Tersia related that as she took a photo of her artistic creation for her portfolio, a butterfly landed on the biggest sunflower in the piece. “I loved it,” she said. “It made me really, really happy….. If a butterfly landed on it, it must really be a beautiful sunflower.”

Photo by Cyma Shapiro

Photo by Cyma Shapiro

Yarn Crafters: a Tightly Knit Group

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Two years ago, Evy Ellis approached the Matthews Public Library about hosting a weekly knitting group – “a place open to everyone, (where) I didn’t need to worry about parking and setting up,” said Ellis. Having knitted since she was 10 years old, she envisioned that the comfort this group might provide – to each other and to others, together with the final product to be donated to others, might serve a worthy purpose in the community.

Through word of mouth, notices around Town Hall, online information and the library calendar, more than one dozen people signed up. Today, they meet twice each month, due to popular demand.

We have given up on knowledge of how to do natural things, use our resources. I’m trying to recapture those as much as possible and I think these ladies are doing the same thing.
— Sandy Davis

The “they” includes (older) women who moved to the Charlotte area to be near children, people already residing in the area and the youngest member – the “resident dessert maker,” who is known for her blue hair.

In addition, they are sometimes joined by a gentleman from Africa who rounds out the group.

“This is a welcoming group,” said Ellis. “It’s an eclectic bunch…very interesting (people). We have a great time talking. Since we meet in the library, the majority of people are prolific readers, and knitters. We discuss books, movies, art, recipes…It reminds me of (a time) when women had quilting gatherings.”

Although conversation is often at a premium, it’s the by-product of the group that takes center stage: scarves, hats, baby blankets, NICU hats, lap blankets (for seniors) at the rate of more than 100 per year. All the knitted creations go to local churches, Room at the Inn, homeless shelters, Meals on Wheels, missions and NICU units (one member transports them to Nashville, when she visits relatives).

In addition to camaraderie, the members get to ogle the great craftwork being created right before their eyes. “I’m astounded by the work – the craftsmanship which the women do,” said Ellis. “They use intricate patterns; some make beautiful things.”

It is a sentiment also reflected in the thank-you cards they receive from the recipients who receive the knitted work.

Do any of the women stand out? “A couple of them are like an assembly line,” laughs Ellis. “I just met some great ladies. We all reach out to each other. I’m (also) glad we can get together and chat.”

Said Sandy Davis, of Weddington, a knitter since her teenage years, “(The group) is totally welcoming.  There is no pressure or social biases. We’re there to share our yarn and be together. I’m glad that these ladies are keeping up with (this craftwork)……We have given up on knowledge of how to do natural things, use our resources. I’m trying to recapture those as much as possible and I think these ladies are doing the same thing.”  

“We’re yarn crafters specifically,” said Davis. “We go there and play with our yarn!”  

Rolande Sowers, of Matthews, is one of the newest members.  A creative person with many artistic interests, in the past, she made dozens of blankets for wheelchair-bound people but had a hard time finding a place for them.  Now, she sees exactly where the fruits of her labor land. “I have only been with the group since the summer. I have enjoyed every bit of it - I’ve even brought my best friend. I have made 25 scarves so far…. We just go at it. I want all my efforts to go to the right people.”

Yarn Crafters meets the first and third Thursday of each month from 2:15 p.m. – 4 p.m. at the Matthews Public Library Activity Room.

Photo by Cyma Shapiro

Photo by Cyma Shapiro

Christmas Made in the South Shows Start in Matthews

We have more than 300 artists and craftsmen, many of them will be demonstrating their work. (Our) show is rated in the top 100 fine art and craft shows by Sunshine Artists, which rates more than 100,000 shows in the country.
— Janice Hunt
Image courtesy Carolina Shows

Image courtesy Carolina Shows

Bob and Janice Hunt started Carolina Shows Inc. in Matthews 40 years ago, but you may not recognize the business name. More likely you’ll recognize their holiday-dressed mouse (Curtis) or the name of their annual craft shows: Christmas Made in the South. Every October artists and crafters from all over the US kick off their holiday sales season by setting up booths for three days in Cabarrus Arena. Over the long weekend, they’ll see about 15,000 shoppers. Those shoppers trek from all over the Carolinas and beyond to the Cabarrus Arena for the Charlotte-area Christmas Made in the South Show.

About 20 years ago the Hunts’ son Russ joined the office crew. Despite growing up involved in the show production, Russ wasn’t initially interested in continuing the legacy. After graduating college with a theater degree the younger Hunt tried it out for a season and was hooked. Russ remembers, “That first year was insane, scary and fun so here I am 20 years later and still having a good time with the shows. It's nice to provide this experience to communities and wonderful to see what a tradition it's become to so many people.”

Image courtesy Carolina Shows

Image courtesy Carolina Shows

It’s no easy feat organizing a craft show where each vendor is responsible for making their own unique wares for sale. Nothing commercially made or manufactured is allowed, a standard that keeps the business operating full-time year round. Carolina Shows employs five people in their Matthews office and hires an additional 5 part-time employees to help operate the show itself.

While holiday ornaments in retail stores seem out of place in September, Carolina Shows begins even earlier. Their holiday season during the summer, when vendor applications begin arriving in the daily mail. The applications are processed and then judged based on the quality of artists’ work. “There has to be creativity with their work as we do not allow any commercial products in our shows,” Russ explains. “A good rule is that it has to be at least 50% altered to be considered a craft.”

“We have more than 300 artists and craftsmen,” says Janice, the show director. “Many of them will be demonstrating their work. (Our) show is rated in the top 100 fine art and craft shows by Sunshine Artists, which rates more than 100,000 shows in the country.” Each show is carefully curated to include a diverse group of vendors, from blown and stained glass to handmade clothing, and jewelry. Only a few crafters of each genre are accepted, including the fanciful polymer clay work of Matthews Artist Karen Elizondo.

cmis glass.jpg

Every October artists and crafters from all over the US kick off their holiday sales season by setting up booths for three days in Cabarrus Arena. Over the long weekend, they’ll see about 15,000 shoppers.

From their Matthews office near the Brace YMCA, Carolina Shows produces six Christmas Made in the South shows starting with Charlotte. After that the full tour includes Columbus, GA, Macon, GA, Savannah, GA, Jacksonville, FL and the season ends in Charleston, SC. Carolina Shows also organizes one spring show in Savannah, GA.

Brainstorming for the future, Russ hopes to one day create an "Outside Division" of shows and have more outdoor arts and crafts fairs. He laments, “It's tricky though to find the correct location and economically it's a bit tough.” In the meantime, they’ll continue to produce incredible arts and crafts shows, and it all starts in Matthews.

CmiS logo.jpg

Christmas Made in the South

October 19 through 21, 2018

Cabarrus Arena * Free parking!

GPS: 4551 Old Airport Rd., Concord, NC 28025

10 AM. – 6 PM Friday * 10 AM – 6 PM Saturday * 11 AM – 5 PM Sunday