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Artist profile: Ginna Earl and her creative journey after Vespertine

Ginna Earl greets me at her house in Sanford, some miles south of Pittsboro. It’s dusk, the sun sets behind the house, giving it a nice glow, and Earl comes out gently, to welcome me on the winding path that leads to her front door. Inside, a picture of Oscar Wilde hangs by the door, a painting in the Art Nouveau style hangs across the way, and then you see paintings by her mom, artworks she found on Etsy over the years, and many other patterns, colors, fabrics, plants, and all the tools and equipment of an artist. On her dining table is a book she’s reading: “Waterlog,” about the adventures of a man who swims throughout the British Isles.

It’s fitting that an interview with Earl occurs in the early hours of the evening. “Vespertine” means exactly that – flourishing in the evening, like a star.

Sitting down at her dining table, Earl talks about what led to the closing of Vespertine, the store in Carrboro that she owned and operated 2011 to 2017, as well as her artistic process, her thoughts on retail, and her plans for the future.

Will she reopen Vespertine? At the moment, the answer is no.

“Right now, I just want to be in nature,” Earl said.

Ever since Vespertine closed, Earl has been focused on healing, and much of that, through spending a lot of time in nature. When she works, unlike the name she chose for her store, she often works in the morning, “when it’s still fresh,” she says.

This need to heal has to do with events that go back to 2015. In the fall of 2015, one of her friends committed suicide. That alone would have been difficult enough to deal with, but her business also suffered setbacks the following year. Although 2016 was Vespertine’s most financially successful year, both of her employees quit. The first suffered a breakdown during Mother’s Day weekend in 2016, while she and Earl were both working in the store helping customers. The second left a couple months after that incident.

As Earl recounts what happened, the shock and anxiety – the trauma of it – still reverberates through her body.

“The thought of trying to find someone new was overwhelming,” she said. “It just was really demoralizing to think of hiring someone else.”

From the summer of 2016, for the next year, through the election of 2016 and the first months of Trump’s presidency, Earl mostly worked alone. All of that became too much, and Earl decided to close in the second half of 2017. After Vespertine closed, This & That next door expanded into the space. And Vespertine, her cherished store filled with Flyleaf T-shirts, button rings and bobby pins, cards of plants, moons and stars, and Earl’s own North Carolina necklaces and ginkgo and cherry blossom earrings, was no more.

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After that, Earl went back to Pittsboro and wanted to refocus on her craft. When she owned Vespertine, it was difficult to get in time to do her own work, she said.

She’s working to diversify her income. Her North Carolina necklaces are mainstays and sell well, and Earl has been doing more enamel jewelry, and branched out into embroidery and fabric.

The delicateness of Earl’s work and her calm, soft manners hide an underlying strength and focus. When she talks about her work and when she demonstrates her work, she makes it sound easy, like it’s just play.

She likes to travel and has made jewelry inspired from her travels, like the intricate Pere Lachaise Pomegranate necklaces created after a trip to Paris.

“I try to get these done in one go,” Earl says and laughs in her soft way, and holds up a bowl full of perfect remains of the pendant, the jeweler’s equivalent of peeling an apple in one long strip – except it’s not an apple, it’s sawing pieces of silver.

Her instinct for strength and endurance cannot help but come out even when she is trying to heal.

As part of her healing process, Earl has been doing the “Maryland Challenge.”

“A friend of mine asked if I had heard about it. I said, ‘No, but I’m in!’”

“And she said, ‘I think you should Google it,’” Earl laughed.

The Maryland Challenge came about from hikers doing the Appalachian Trail who wanted to push through all of Maryland in one day. That’s about 45 miles in 24 hours, with end points at the Mason-Dixon line and West Virginia.

Earl’s “long distance walking,” as she calls it, began in 2015. By last summer, she was doing the “Maryland Challenge” on the American Tobacco Trail. She hiked through the entire trail with two friends, 22 miles in one day. “Your body starts doing weird things after the 20th mile,” Earl said.

“But after you’re done, the showers you take are the best showers you’ll ever take,” she said.

Earl’s goal is to be able to do the real Maryland Challenge by next summer.

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