Thanks to our editor Kristen Gehrman, Charleston (South Carolina) has become the third US city within the FvF network. Besides providing us with fascinating portraits from the American South-East, the well-traveled writer maintains her own blog and pursues a longtime hobby of making her own zines. This summer, Kristen came to Berlin on her trip across Europe and spent some time with us at the office. Even though we keep close contact, it‘s always best to see our cherished contributors face to face and share a flat white in our favorite coffee shop.
Alongside her friend and equally talented photographer Olivia Rae James, she introduced us to assemblage artist Hirona Matsuda, who turns random finds from the street into little artworks, and textile Designer Harper Poe, who works closely with village artisans all over the world. When she is not writing, Kristen teaches French and English in a local High School and keeps a keen eye on international, cultural happenings.
What’s your favorite daily ritual?
I always have a few letters to faraway friends in the works. I like to come home from work, grab a bowl of cereal, and add a few lines to my letters. Some of them take weeks to actually make it off of my desk and into the world, but I’ve learned to be patient with myself. Somehow letters always find their way back to me.
Where do you go when you want to relax or get inspired in your city?
I go to the water, I suppose. Standing on the edge of the continent, where the beach becomes the Atlantic, makes me feel on the edge of something bigger. Sometimes I need to get outside of the middle and walk around the periphery.
How has technology influenced you?
It’s mostly made me frustrated with myself. I like technology of course, and appreciate how it keeps me connected with people, but I don’t think it makes me a better person.
What’s your best travel memory?
I’ve had some wonderful trips in Europe in recent years, but the happiest trips in my memory are with my family. My dad took my brother and I to Las Vegas when we were in high school. We stayed in this dive hotel at the far end of the Strip. We drank pineapple-fizz drinks at the dirty pool and talked about what we would do if we won $500,000 at the Bellagio. Dad bought me a Swatch watch and I thought I hit the Jackpot.
Your latest artistic discovery?
I just moved my old childhood piano into my Charleston apartment. It took four people to get it up the stairs! My friend Ross comes over in the afternoons to play and lately, we’ve been singing together. When I was a child, my mom put me in the theater and boy, my little pipes could belt Broadway songs loud and proud. It’s been fun (and terrifying) to hear my grown-up voice. Maybe it’s kind of good?
What current global or local topics are you currently fascinated with?
I teach a 12th grade English class that focuses on contemporary non-fiction essays. We’ve been reading about women’s issues from an international perspective for the last two weeks. It’s fascinating to hear my students’ responses to things like arranged marriage, income gaps, and human trafficking. These are issues that, as adults, we have heard of before in the news. But for a room full of relatively sheltered 17 year olds, these injustices are shocking, outrageous, and absurd. Their reactions and commentary, along with the issues themselves, are fascinating to me.
What was the last great meal you ate and where?
The Charleston Kinfolk dinner at Deux Puces Farm in Awendaw, SC, a rural sea-island community slightly North of our city. We ate pork burgers, homemade chips and giant chunks of local cheese served on a long table overlooking the marsh at sunset.
What’s your favorite place in your neighborhood?
My favorite place in my neighborhood is Blue Bicycle Books, the second-hand bookstore where I worked through college. The store front is tiny, only 10 ft. across, but the shop goes back two blocks. It’s the only independent bookstore downtown Charleston and for me, it’s like a sanctuary. The steady inpouring of new books makes it the kind of place that changes all the time, but still, it stays the same. I’ve spent hundreds of Sundays there, pouring over rare books, tending to the ancient shop cat, and figuring out my life.
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