With their unique perspective on Southern culture, the team at Bearings has been highlighting the best in Southern culture since the launch of their guide in 2008. Bearings was an early supporter of our company since the very beginning, and through their guide, we’ve been introduced to many intriguing aspects of Southern culture and life. On the heels of their newly re-launched website and online store, we had the opportunity to catch up with Bearings’ founders, Robert Forrester and Jeremy Blume, about the new direction for their digital guide to a well-rounded life.
For those who may be unfamiliar with the Bearings, can you tell us a little more about the guide and why it was established?
Bearings is a bi-weekly guide and shop that points others toward a well-rounded life by connecting them to intriguing, enriching and uncommon aspects of culture. We launched our guide in 2008 anchored by the idea of telling stories that inspire us to be wiser, more creative, adventurous, productive and fulfilled.
When we launched there wasn’t anything out there that delivered what we wanted for ourselves. We tried to answer the questions: in a society moving at such a rapid pace, overloaded with information and choices, how do we make it all count? How do we make the most of our time, resources and relationships?
In 2012, we built on this philosophy by printing our custom-designed illustrations – part knowledge, part art. Our shop makes these hand-drawn designs tangible by partnering with craftsmen and women to create high-quality, letterpress prints, wood engravings and screen-printed pieces.
It’s been over a year since we last caught up, how has everything been going; both with the guide and the online shop?
2013 was a key year for us. As we approached our fifth anniversary we didn’t want to just celebrate it, but rather reassess everything we were doing, particularly our vision and passion for it all. We felt that the best way to do this was to pause and step back in order to gain a clearer perspective, as well as recharge.
We decided to write a letter to our subscribers announcing that we were going to take a short break on Bearings’ every-other-week editions for the reasons above; the response was overwhelming. It seemed we hit a cord with our audience. More than any other time, readers wrote in telling us how they wanted to do something similar in their own lives. We came back three months later with a renewed vision and a refinement of how we were executing it – including a refreshed look and feel.
The new website design looks great. What else did you “refresh,” and how will the guide and the overall Bearings experience benefit from it?
We recognized that part of what we set out to do five years before (highlight the South) had become a bit over saturated in our society. Also, our personal cultural lens had developed and we had formed a more diverse pallet of inspiration. We’re staying grounded in our roots, but we hope the perspective will be fresh.
Also, since our prints had grown in popularity we put more attention on the shop and developing more selections. The shop is now as much a part of Bearings as the guide has been.
What are some of your favorite stories and notable brands that you’ve had the opportunity to profile since the guide first started in 2008?
There are so many people we’ve met that have inspired us or taught us something about making the most out of life. One of the most rewarding things has been watching the progression of some of the stories and people over the years. To watch Ledbury experience such growth and expand your offerings; to see Otis James and Emil Eriwn go from making their goods in their backyard sheds to getting national attention; to see talented musicians launch new bands like Leagues and The Lone Bellow and then gain acclaim – this is one of our favorite parts of the journey.
The Bearings team has a unique perspective on the south. Have you noticed any trends within the region in recent years (e.g., entrepreneurship, perception to the rest of the country, overall mood, etc.)?
It’s been good to see parts of the culture of the South get recognition outside our region, but with anything that gets attention, it can become a gimmick. Now it’s refreshing to hear more and more craftsmen, chefs, musicians and designers in the South talk about balancing that out so that “the South” is a natural, authentic expression and identity – and not necessarily something we have to broadcast all the time.
Shows like True Detective, The Walking Dead, and even House of Cards features a southern landscape or perspective. How does this refocusing of popular culture on the South influence what you do?
As the South has become more popular, we feel an increased sense of responsibility for how we treat the subject. For one thing, there is so much diversity in the South that it would be a shame to reduce our entire culture down to just an identity of a few things. We love bourbon and barbeque, but we don’t want to trivialize them. Our goal is to be more intentional about making sure the South is celebrated for being multi-dimensional.
After a long winter, it’s finally spring. What are you most excited about for the upcoming season in the south?
The spring in the South is incredible. It’s like a magnet that draws you outside. Whether it’s going to a music festival, taking a beach trip, hiking in the mountains or biking around town – just being out in the elements this time of year is a reward in and of itself.
Where do you hope to see Bearings by the next year?
On the guide front, we are excited about our renewed direction and broadening our content focus and inspiration. We never want to settle or get too comfortable, so you may see us challenging more parts of culture. We want to be respectful, but if there’s something we can all do better, let’s talk about it and work on it. There’s always room for improvement and growth.
With our prints, we saw a lot of success selling them in Billy Reid stores last year and that’s led to us placing them in specialty shops around the country like Ledbury and Apolis. We’re also exploring more partnerships with like-minded brands to produce illustrations tailored for their audiences. For instance, we just finished an American Bison for Mountain Khakis that is now selling in their spring line up. Our art is such a natural extension of the Bearings ethos and a way to engage people offline.
For more information on Bearings and to sign up for their bi-weekly newsletter, visit bearingsguide.com.
All images courtesy of Bearings