Kool Kat of the Week: Salon Red’s Jessica Soler and the Art Institute of Atlanta Get Avant-garde and Decked Out in Decatur This Holiday Season

Posted on: Dec 3rd, 2014 By:

by Alexis Owens & High Pulp Heart
Art-Loving Atlanta MavensKKJSoler4
Contributing Writers

This year ATLRetro is giving you a heads up on some amazing holiday eye candy provided by our Kool Kat of the Week, Jessica Soler!  Jessica, owner of Salon Red,  and Dr. Courtney Hammonds , Visual Merchandising instructor at the Art Institute of Atlanta – Decatur, put their heads together and envisioned a co-op project that can be enjoyed the entire holiday season in downtown Decatur. The indie-inspired town is already decked to the halls, but now with even more edge and retro flare thanks to these two amazing artists!

Local businesswoman, hair stylist, artist and Jill-of-all-trades, Jessica Soler, is the creative mastermind behind the insanely inspiring wigs and dresses featured in this year’s holiday window display at the Art Institute of Atlanta’s downtown Decatur branch. In addition to being the owner of Salon Red, a local chain of retro-esque, upscale hair salons with locations in Decatur, Candler Park and Brookhaven, Jessica is also an artist, a nature lover, a dancer, a mother of four and heavily involved in the local community.

It’s her love of arts and community that led to her involvement with the Art Institute. When she started making dresses out of unconventional materials like foam rollers and hair color boxes, she thought she was simply creating something interesting for a salon photo shoot. But her ties within Atlanta transformed that creative urge into something that the larger community now has the opportunity to enjoy.

KKJSoler3Jessica is dripping of modern-meets-retro in every facet. ATLRetro was thrilled to get the chance to see her in action. Along with Art Institute students, she created a display that is reminiscent of the early Macy’s Christmas window displays that awed so many of us as we grew up. While witnessing the magic in action, we took the opportunity to not only snap some fun photos but also ask this nifty lady a few questions.

ATLRetro: How long have you been doing hair?

Jessica Soler: In total 18 years, but I have owned my own salon for 16 of those years.

That is pretty early on in your career to own your own salon. Why own your own salon?

Do you want the lie or the truth?

Both if you don’t mind?

Well the lie is I thought it would be fun, but that is what any young entrepreneur believes.  In all honesty, though, the truth is I couldn’t work anywhere else. I have an immensely strong work ethic, and I always want to upgrade systems from the front end of business to the back end. Creative problem solving is what I am best at and what I prefer to work around, and that isn’t just found in any business. But I knew I could incorporate it into mine. Truly though, once diving into having my own business, I learned there is no other way.KKJSoler5

The project with Art Institute’s holiday windows is dripping with community relations and art.  Would you say that that encompasses you as an individual, your business and various locations?

I thrive off of any and all creative avenues. Every single member of my staff is creative in so many different ways and that is one of the many reasons why we continue to thrive as a business, a family and a community. Art is our core, and community is everything wrapped around it. Working with the various Atlanta communities is something we pride ourselves on. Not to mention, it is just such fun to involve community and family in all that you do. Community and art fuel the salons and are a huge part of why I own my own business. It brings out the best in all aspects. We all love to be inspired and want to inspire others. Art and community provide that in ample supply.

You also do a lot of education with your staff, correct?

Education has always been an initiative of mine from the get-go, be it with staff or community.

So tell us about these window displays you created and put together with the Art Institute students? What was your inspiration?

Christmas, Pinterest, The Grinch and Laurent Philippon of Bumble and bumble and his book HAIR: FASHION AND FANTASY, which not so oddly is an inspiration for me and the fabulous Art Institute instructor Dr. Courtney Hammonds, who was gracious enough to host this co-op.

KKJSoler6Laurent is rather avant-garde as is these beautiful window pieces you have created. Has that always been a part of your vision?

Being avant-garde isn’t my main focus point all of the time, but it sure is fun and adds an extra flare to a lot of my projects.

What kind of products do you use to make such amazing avant-garde pieces?

So much hairspray! I have to stay true to the best products that I know, though. I used a ton of Bumble & bumble as well as Oribe products.

The windows truly are a beautiful reflection of art meets community meets retro roots; is there anything coming up after this that we can keep an eye out for?

Spring. We have a show coming up in the spring that I can’t talk a whole lot about, but this is just a taste of that and I am very excited about it.

Be sure to check out the retro whimsical window display for yourself. It’s just a hop, skip and a jump from some of Decatur’s GREAT local shops to help fill those stockings this year. The Art Institute’s gallery windows can be found on downtown Decatur’s main drag, Ponce de Leon Avenue.

KKJSoler2

Photo’s provided courtesy of Farmer Dude & High Pulp Heart

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Tis the Season to Be Sexy: The Second Annual Southern Fried Burlesque Fest Shimmies Into Decatur This Weekend

Posted on: Mar 8th, 2012 By:

Southern Fried Burlesque Fest; Thursday, March 8–Sunday, March 11, 2012; Courtyard Marriot and Conference Centre, 130 Clairemont Ave, Decatur, Georgia 30030; Weekend passes and show tickets available online and at the door. For more info, click here.

The Second Annual Southern Fried Burlesque Festival again is bringing the best performers from all over the world to Atlanta for a weekend full of sparkle, sizzle and spectacle!

Thursday night, the festival kicks off with Just Hatched, performances by new and promising performers (doors at 7 p.m.; show at 7:30 p.m.) Then at 9 p.m. Burlesque Legend Satan’s Angel takes the stage for “Have Tassels Will Travel, a One-Woman Improvisational play about the life and times of the star nicknamed “The Devils Own Mistress,” the Queen and originator of fire tassel twirling.  She has performed this act for over 40 years, lighting her tassels approximately 25,000 times all over the world.  The show chronicles Angel’s career from how she began stripping in 1961 in San Francisco, to a peek at how hers was no ordinary life. From following Bob Hope and the USO in Vietnam, appearing on the Gypsy Rose Lee television show, dating Clint Eastwood, Bobby Darin, Hedy Lamarr, and Janis Joplin, defying the convention of The Folies Bergéré in Paris, working with Ann Corio, Harold Minsky, Barry Ashton and running with The Rat Pack in Vegas, and two near death experiences.

Satan's Angel.

Friday Night brings The Free Range Burlesque International Showcase, featuring performances by Burlesque Legends Satan’s Angel, Shannon Doah and Gabriela Maze; neo-burlesque star such as Perle Noire, and headlined by Miss Exotic World 2002, Kitten De Ville (this week’s Kool Kat) as well as other amazing performers from all over the world! Last year’s Free Range was one of the best burlesque shows ever to grace an Atlanta stage, so in ATLRetro’s humble opinion, this show is not to be missed.

Saturday Night is the main event: The Southern Fried Burlesque Pageant has performers competing for Best Duet, Group, Variety and the Southern Fried Burlesque King and Queen!  The Pageant will also include a farewell performance by the first-ever Southern Fried Burlesque Queen, Siren Santina!  After the awards ceremony, let your hair down at the Southern Scorcher Showcase with performers from all over the Southeast, a special performance by Sadie Hawkins from Blast-Off! Burlesque, and headlined by Atlanta native, The Lady Ms. Vagina Jenkins!

Perle Noire.

Be sure to stop by Sunday, however, for a Burlesque Legends Panel at 1 p.m., with neoburlesque star Kitten DeVille and classic performers Satan’s Angel and Shannon Doah.

From Friday to Sunday, you can also sign up for lectures and classes for all skill and interest levels. Whether you are a history buff, into crafting costumes, want to learn the basics, or fine tune your performance, this festival will have activities for all levels and aspects of burlesque. Learn entirely from seasoned burlesque performers, teachers, and legends, and leave the festival with all the tools you need to be the next Burlesque Aficionado! Don’t worry guys – all genders are welcome to attend classes!

As lovely and talented festival producers Katherine Lashe and Ursula Undress of Syrens of the South remind us, Burlesque is the art of the striptease, with a focus on the tease.  Performers occasionally strip to pasties, but there is no nudity in any festival productions. This festival is dedicated to the preservation of an art form that has become an international movement.

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Kool Kat of the Week: A Jazz Interlude With Kayla Taylor: Why She Loves ‘30s/’40s Classics, the Unsurprising Success of Her New CD and the Pleasures of Playing the Vintage Artmore Hotel This Friday

Posted on: Nov 16th, 2011 By:

Atlantans who love classic jazz won’t be surprised to hear that Kayla Taylor’s new and sixth CD YOU”D BE SURPRISED hit #23 on the CMJ Jazz charts this week and is receiving airplay across the nation and throughout Europe. Instead, we’re liable to say it’s delovely and just one of those things that had to happen. But then local audiences have had the treat of listening to this Atlanta native and chanteuse extraordinaire resurrect top tunes from the ‘30s,  ‘40s and ’50s  live for a decade or more with musical partner/guitarist Steve Moore. And because this Friday night, Kayla will be performing at one of Atlanta’s coolest vintage venues, the courtyard of the Artmore Hotel in Midtown whose building dates back to 1924, we thought the timing couldn’t be more perfect to make her Kool Kat of the Week.

One of those rare actual Atlanta natives, Kayla literally grew up singing, in her school chorus, church choir and in the shower, but winning two awards in a 7th grade talent show cemented her ambition to make music a career. Along the way, she has performed country music, gospel, R&B and classic and original rock ‘n’ roll until she finally found her heart resided in the golden era of Cole Porter, George Gershwin and Irving Berlin—all of whom are represented on YOU’D BE SURPRISED’s playlist. ATLRetro caught up with Kayla to find out more about why she decided to embrace one of our favorite musical eras, what she has planned for this Friday night at the Artmore, her new CD, what’s next and where you might catch her singing while shopping…

ATLRetro: According to your bio, you always sang even as a little girl, and through the years, in addition to jazz, you’ve performed country, gospel, R&B and rock n roll, too. How did you come to embrace vintage jazz?

Kayla Taylor: I have always loved vintage jazz. The charm and romance of the ‘30s and ‘40s was something that always attracted me. I love how clever the lyrics are. When I was a kid, I watched a lot of old movies that were filmed and set during that time period and found all of it to be a natural embrace. Then in the mid-‘80s, Linda Ronstadt—one of my rock heroes—came out with her Big Band albums with The Nelson Riddle Orchestra and the romance started all over again.

Photo credit: John Lee Matney.

I understand that your earliest award was for singing Irene Cara’s “Out Here on My Own” from FAME? What’s the story and how big an early influence on you was the movie, FAME?

I wouldn’t say that FAME had a big influence on me, but the music and Irene Cara’s voice definitely did. I loved the pure emotion that was in her voice when she sang “Out Here On My Own.” The school talent show was coming up, and so I decided that I’d sing that song. I practiced for weeks in my room with the door closed. I must have played that record hundreds of times. My parents had no idea. I wasn’t trying to win—I just wanted to sing in front of all those people. I was also in a girls’ trio that performed “Sincerely”— a tune from the ‘50s. Well, the trio took 1st place, and I took 2nd place. I was so thrilled and excited. My parents had always been supportive of whatever I wanted to try, but at that point, they jumped completely onboard with my singing adventures.

Who are some of your favorite classic jazz composers and performers, and why do you think their music remains so timeless and relevant today?

Cole Porter, The Gershwins, Rodgers & Hammerstein, Johnny Mercer . . . there are so many amazing composers from that era that I adore, but these are just a few of my top picks. As far as performers, Julie London, Ella Fitzgerald, Nina Simone, Peggy Lee, Etta James, Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra. I think the music is so well-crafted that it can’t help but remain timeless and relevant. Most of the songs are about love or the loss of love—that will always be timeless and relevant.

How did you meet Steve Moore and end up working together?

Great Story! Steve Moore was in a rock band called A Fine Line—an original rock project. They ran an ad in the Creative Loafing looking for a female vocalist. (That’s what you did 19 years ago—you ran an ad in a printed publication if you were looking for a musician.) I called about the position. They sent me a demo of some of their tunes, and I thought they were really cool, so I learned them and showed up at the audition. Later that night, Steve Moore was the one who called me to tell me I had gotten the job. That was the beginning of an amazing relationship as friends, co-writers and business partners. We went through several original rock projects together (A Fine Line, OneWithout) and even an acoustic duo (The Adventures of Kayla & Steve). One day we were talking about all these great jazz standards that we both loved and how much we would both love to play that music one day and to have our own jazz combo. Five minutes later we had made a decision to start working towards that direction. That was over 10 years ago, and we’ve been at it ever since.

Kayla Taylor and Steve Moore. Photo credit: John Lee Matney.

Can you tell us a bit about YOU’D BE SURPRISED came together, and what it means to you that it’s doing so well?

To say we are excited is an understatement. OVER THE MOON with excitement might scratch the surface. All of this came about because we hired an expert to handle it for us. We’re indy artists—SmartyKat Records—that’s our own label. We don’t have the connections personally to make this kind of airplay and exposure happen, so we hired Kari Gaffney and Jeff Williams of Kari-On Productions to handle all of it for us. Kari has over 21 years experience promoting and marketing CDs to radio and print media. I have never seen anyone work as hard as she has been working. I don’t know when she even has time to sleep. She’s done a fabulous job for us.

What’s your favorite song on the CD to perform and why?

WOW. To pick one tune—that’s tough because I love every song that’s on the CD. It’s like asking a parent to choose a favorite child. If I have to pick one, though, I’d have to say the title track—“You’d Be Suprised.” What I love about that song are the great lyrics. They are so clever!!! I love the Marilyn Monroe version.

The Jazz in the Courtyard series at the Artmore, where the building dates back to 1924, promises an urban escape with “sultry music, sexy vibes and sinful drinks.” And the signature cocktail is “The Prohibition.” Can we surmise that the goal is to create a speakeasy atmosphere, and will you be tossing some Roaring ‘20s tunes into the mix?

Artmore is a great hotel, and the courtyard is a beautiful venue. We have a great time playing there and love that they have embraced our music. We’ll still be hanging out in the ‘30s and ‘40s era but love that they have created a speakeasy feel—with a modern twist. All concerts take place in the courtyard, and there is a fabulous firepit and heaters to keep everything warm. If it should rain or turn freezing cold—we’ll move the show into their basement speakeasy lounge. I think we might be good to have this final concert of the season out in the courtyard, though.

Anything else you’d like to share about Friday’s gig at the Artmore?

Reservations are not required, but if you want to reserve a seat, you can email them at sales@artmorehotel.com. Come prepared to have a great time. I have a retro-styled microphone that is wireless so I can move all over the courtyard, and I love to come by and sing to anyone who seems like they might be receptive. Trust me, though—if it’s clear you’re there with a date and you just want to make eyes at each other—I’ll stay out of your way.

Where else will you be playing in Atlanta soon, and any plans for a tour to promote YOU’D BE SURPRISED?

Our next big show will be at Feast in Decatur on Saturday, December 3. This will be a great show because it’s the beginning of the holiday & Christmas season, and we’ll have some of the great jazzy Christmas tunes from the era to throw into the mix. This show generally sells out, so it’s a really good idea to call them to make a reservation. We play from 7:30 p.m. – 10:30 p.m. with the five-piece combo. The food at Feast is fantastic and we always have a great time. [Call] 404.370.2000 – for reservations.  As far as a tour to promote YOU’D BE SURPRISED—definitely something we are thinking long and hard about we just have to make the numbers work out.

Do you really burst into song at the grocery store? If yes, where do you shop?

Not every time I’m in the grocery store, but yes, I have been known to burst into song in the middle of a shopping excursion. My sweet husband, Scott, has been so good about dealing with those moments and I know they have been embarrassing—but sometimes a song just wells up inside and I have to blurt it out. For the record, my favorite place to shop locally is Publix—the stores are smaller and easier to navigate and everyone is super-friendly. If I’m going to travel away from my neighborhood to shop, you’ll find me at Whole Foods.

Finally, we’ve got to ask. What would we be most surprised to know about you?

Two things: first, I am an avid gardener. I love digging holes and putting plants in them and then nurturing them and watching them grow. It fascinates me! The next thing . . . I actually suffer from stage fright on occasion. It’s true.

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Parades, Fireworks, Music and Beer: Our Patriotic Picks for a Retro Atlanta Independence Day

Posted on: Jul 3rd, 2011 By:

Want to spend your Fourth of July in the most classic Retro way? Here are ATLRetro’s top patriotic picks.

Parades

“I Love A Parade” go the lyrics of the classic Arden & Ohmen song, perhaps put to its most whimsical use in this zany1932 Merrie Melodies cartoon. ATLRetro couldn’t agree more that it’s just plain unpatriotic not to on the Fourth of July. Alas, the big Salute 2 America parade (1961-2007) has vanished into the realm of nostalgia. But while the floats and marching bands might not be as glitzy, several suburban parades compensate with homegrown small town star-spangled spirit. To see one of the largest in the area, hop in the car and be in Carrollton by 10, where the parade proves it’s all-American-ness by starting at the Dairy Queen and ending at Kmart. Or head east to Cumming for its Steam Engine Parade (also 10 a.m.), including antique steam engines, tractors and cars, which will be on display in the fairgrounds afterwards where you can ride carnival rides, munch on festival food and linger for evening fireworks.

Prefer to stay in town? Avondale Estates’ parade marches up Clarendon Avenue starting at 10 a.m. at Avondale High School. Marietta also starts up at 10 at the Roswell Street Baptist Church, followed by vendors, food concessions, carnie rides and entertainment in the Square.

Always wanted to be in a parade yourself? Line up at the First Baptist Church of Decatur at 5:30 p.m. for that suburb’s annual July 4th Pied Piper Parade, which officially starts at 6 p.m. and goes to the bandstand in the square where the Callanwolde Concert Band will play patriotic tunes at 7 p.m.

Fireworks

Among the big fireworks displays, Lenox Square‘s Salute 2 America Celebration has history on its side, because, well, there wasn’t even a Centennial Olympic Park until the Olympics in 1996. For sheer ooey-gooey patriotism, however, head to Stone Mountain Park’s Lasershow Spectacular in Mountainvision which concludes with a mighty fireworks display over the granite dome. It’s been updated this year by adding some Pixar-like CGI effects—yeah, that’s the Mountainvision. But there’s just something so ‘70s/’80s about seeing our nation’s patriotic heroes from Founding Fathers to firefighters in squiggly laser outline—remember when that was NEW technology! Yup, they still play Elvis’s “American Trilogy” and the cartoony “Devil Went Down to Georgia” and that trippy psychedelic rock sequence. If you still can drive there in that old Trans Am, you get extra points. Alas, family-friendly no longer means you can legally enjoy a beer during the show.

If you’re more into an old-time community fireworks display, sitting with your family on a picnic blanket or lawn chairs, head to the Decatur Square or surrounding streets. Every year we’ve been impressed that it lasts longer and is bigger than we expected. If you’ve got a bit of extra cash, fantastic views can be had from the front terrace of Café Lily, along with barbecue and other picnicky specials, DJ music and a glass of complimentary prosecco. OK the latter sounds a bit European, but hey, it’s family-owned by the Italian-American Pitillos and besides Thomas Jefferson and Ben Franklin really dug France.

We kind of also like the idea of watching the sky explode at scenic Avondale Lake with its vintage boat house and live music by Atlanta Blue Notes. And the Henry County Fireworks Extravaganza is at an actual battlefield, Nash Farm Battlefield Park. We’ll ignore that it was a Civil War battlefield where Georgians fought to separate from the Union, and just enjoy the pony rides, live music and Spirit of ’76 period actors on hand to help families “relive the excitement of when and how America was born!” Extra Retro points for enthusiasm and only 20 bucks a carload so pile those kids into the station wagon and head on down.

Live Music

The fireworks displays and community festivals have live marching bands and other patriotic entertainment. But to ATLRetro.com, nothing sounds more all-American than Hawgapalooza 2011—BBQ pork, beer and country music including kick-ass honky tonk duo Whiskey Belt at Hottie Hawgs BBQ on the Westside. Fun starts at 4 p.m. and concludes with a fireworks show in Whittier Mill Park.

Beer

Nothing’s more all-American Retro than beer, right? Red, White & Brew embraces the patriotic spirit of America’s favorite alcoholic beverage with a beer tasting from 6-10:30 p.m. Even if we’re not too sure about the Retro-ness of being the rooftop of the Georgia Aquarium parking deck, the location promises great views of the downtown fireworks. Gwinnett County may pretend to be all sugary wholesome, but The Mall of Georgia, in all-American consumer spirit, apparently has a Beer Garden planned where mom and dad can toss back a brewski while the kids feast on patriotic food offerings including bratwurst?! I personally prefer to stay ITP, so for more ideas, check out this piece I wrote recently for Metromix on some of the most All-American Bars in Atlanta here.

All photos are from the 2007 Decatur fireworks display and copyright ATLRetro 2011. For post-July 4 Retro action next week, be sure and check back for the regular This Week in Retro Atlanta on Tuesday July 5.

 

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