The rich cultural tradition of Southern craft, design, and ingenuity is celebrated each fall by Garden & Gun (G&G) editors who gather a who’s who lineup of guest judges to pore through the hundreds of entries of Southern-made products in four categories: Sporting, Home, Fashion, and Food.
Guest judges this year were: design guru Hollister Hovey for Home, James Beard Award—winning chef Sean Brock for Food, expert sportsman T. Edward Nickens for Sporting, and international tastemaker Laura Vinroot Poole for Fashion.
“The quality and number of this year's Made in the South Awards entries prove once again that some of the best things made are made in Dixie. And Garden & Gun is delighted to give these artisans a platform to show off their talents. The entrepreneurial spirit of the South is not only alive—it's thriving,” says David DiBenedetto, editor in chief of Garden & Gun.
Winners and runners-ups are presented in the December 2011/January 2012 issue of G&G, on newsstands November 21. In addition to a feature in the magazine and a cash prize, finalists and winners and their items can be purchased through the holidays on noted e-commerce site Taigan.com.
This year’s overall and Sporting category winner is Williams Knife Co. of Greenville, South Carolina. Chris Williams, owner and knife maker, won for his Edisto Oyster Knife design. Williams, who grew up watching his grandfather fashion knives from old saw blades, left his job as an investment banker two years ago to follow his passion. What made this knife different from other oyster knives was the blend of its design and functionality.
In the Home category, JC Wood Artisan’s furniture, made from used bourbon barrels, took top honors. Jason Cohen’s craftsmanship in creating furniture, such as a pub table and chairs, appealed to G&G editors not only for its ingenious design and style but for its eco-conscious use of materials.
In the Fashion category, Otis James’s neckwear was a hands-down winner. His ties, sold in boutiques across the United States, offer a blend of classic old-school design to a modern aesthetic that often incorporates nontraditional fabrics such as linen and wool. James’s business was conceived as he made his way across the country on a 5,000-mile bike trek almost three years ago.
In the Food category, Charleston Bold & Spicy Bloody Mary Mix from the Charleston Beverage Company caught the attention of the G&G guest judge Chef Sean Brock. “As soon as I tasted the mix, I could taste the hard work that went into developing the flavor... .It’s no easy feat. He nailed it,” Brock says about Ryan Eleuteri’s concoction. The mix combines a habanero mash, sea salt, and a vegetable/beef base.
Winning a Garden & Gun Made in the South award can be life changing for some. One of last year’s winners, Emil Congdon of Emil Erwin, of Nashville, Tennessee enjoyed such success he was able to depart his job, now selling his hand-crafted canvas and leather bags full-time. Another winner, Fritz Orr went from crafting a few canoe paddles as a hobby to full-fledged business crafting wooden canoe paddles, now sought by canoe enthusiasts and interior designers worldwide.