Erin Connelly is a former womenswear designer who has worked all over the country including stints in New York, San Francisco, and Seattle. Then, in 2013, during a cross country roadtrip, what was intended as a quick pit stop in Charleston actually turned out to be her final destination. Completely smitten by Charleston's laid-back charm, Connelly decided to not leave. Instead, she opened The-Commons, a tiny store specializing in what she describes as a "modern take on American craft."
"Charleston has an amazing food scene, and there are some shops here that are incredibly inspiring," says Connelly, "but there wasn't a home store that I felt was bringing a new point of view to the city." The-Commons only sells home goods, primarily for the table, and every single piece is designed and made in America.
"Coming from clothing, the home market was really attractive to me," Connelly explains. "You can keep home goods for years, you don't have to immediately get rid of something—it's not that kind of cycle." As you might expect, The-Commons is filled with the kind of pieces that are destined to become family heirlooms.
Connelly, along with a business partner based in Oregon, insists that she maintains the store's point of view primarily by following her gut. "It's been a very organic process. We've never done a trade show. We travel and go out of our way to find unique items that fit into our particular aesthetic."
In addition to carrying works by well-known North Carolinian potter Akira Satake, reclaimed hardwood pieces by Massachusetts-based Peterman's Board & Bowls, and an eclectic mix of bespoke objects by Georgia-based Me Speak Design, The-Commons also stocks Connelly's own line of products: The Shelter Collection. The handblown glassware and wheel-thrown ceramics are a partnership with nonprofit STARworks from Star, NC, which aims to stimulate the town's economic growth by employing local artisans to create each design.
Here, Connelly shares five of her favorite pieces in The-Commons right now.
The Shelter Collection Ceramic Water Pitcher
Ceramic Water Pitcher, $108, the-commons.us.
"Each of these hand-thrown pitchers is unique, with some variances in the stone-colored glaze. The finish is soft to the touch and has a slight sheen. The natural clay shown at the base is a warm, earthy tone with a sandy texture. The bottom of each pitcher is stamped with our logo that represents our partnership with STARworks—they're perfect for water, iced tea, or even flowers."
Me Speak Design Brass Cocktail Spoon
Brass Cocktail Spoon by Me Speak Design, $95, the-commons.us.
"This beautiful brass cocktail spoon is hand-forged by Me Speak Design. Each one has a unique texture. It's 10-inches long, and is perfect for mixing your favorite beverages."
The Shelter Collection Gray Water Pitcher
Gray Water Pitcher, $94, the-commons.us.
"The surface of these handblown domes is subtly ribbed with tooling marks that are created as the maker forms the the glass."
Keith Hudson Braided Doormat
Braided Doormat by Keith Hudson, $80, the-commons.us.
"This hand-braided hemp doormat is made here in Charleston by Keith Hudson. The entire piece is made from one piece of rope—its durable tight weave gives it the perfect texture to prevent dirt from tracking."
Blackcreek Mercantile & Trading Co. Blackline Spatula
Spatula by Blackcreek Mercantile & Trading Co., $60, the-commons.us.
"The Blackline Collection by Blackcreek Mercantile & Trading Co. is made from white oak before being finished with a food-safe, pigment-free technique that reacts with the tannic acid inherent in white oak. The wood will have some variation in color and will develop a well deserved patina over time. This spatula is visually stunning and completely functional."
For more on the coolest American craftsmen, see the-commons.us.