TELL US ABOUT YOUR BUSINESS.Smoke Signals began in 2012 as a sketch in a journal. A simple line of smoke above a pastoral landscape. Every day since then has been a practice in turning that vision into a reality. We are a young business with a strong work ethic and artistic approach to baking. All our goods are made entirely by hand and baked in a traditional, wood fired oven. We keep our production small to ensure that each loaf, cookie or pie pulled from the hearth has been given skilled attention and care. Using only naturally leavened cultures in our breads imparts a distinct flavor, texture and vitality. Freshly milled, local flour gives our products a bold voice. This year is our first year leasing a space and having retail hours. We are open Sundays for fresh bread, toast and pies alongside oven roasted veggies. We are on the verge of expanding with a weekly pizza night, pastry classes and a return to local farmers markets. Experimental education and self sufficiency are core to what we do.
TELL US ABOUT YOUR WORKSPACE, SHOP, OR STUDIO.Located deep in the mountains of Western North Carolina the bakery serves as a community hub for conversation, eating and learning. I am the third baker to occupy the space, moving in after a few years of vacancy. When I first hung an open sign I literally had folks walking through the woods to get bread. This is how food can preserve a culture, through maintaining and enlivening forgotten paths. The bakery is humble and simple, showing that you can do a lot with focus, organization and creativity. The baking is a three day process, from feeding the sourdough culture to firing the oven, each step is important and comes with its own physical and mental requirements. The mood is quiet and thoughtful. I joked at one point that the bakery felt like an old church. That’s not actually too far from the truth. When the baking is done the surfaces are cleaned and the space is turned into an art studio. I design, silk screen and block print all my own packaging. Quality, inside and out.
WHAT INSPIRES YOU?People. Our goal is to cultivate healthy relationships in and outside of the food industry: bread is our vehicle. We know someone had to sweat and toil long hours to grow the wheat that will eventually become our flour. We know that someone had to stand by the mill late at night making adjustments to create a beautiful product. We know that without our friends, family and customers to eat our bread we would be nothing. The Future. We seek to give people an intimate connection with something ancient. There is no doubt, when starting into the roaring oven, that wood fired baking imparts a solid sense of time and location. The fact that these kinds of ovens were historically a site of gathering guides us. It is our belief that through providing an environment where folks can experience culinary roots we can cultivate a future of food that is inspired, from the heart and moves freely from hand to mouth.
WHAT MAKES YOUR BUSINESS STAND OUT?We are not your typical bakery. We are not open seven days a week. We do not truck our bread all over the place. We do not offer a long list of goods. We are unique. We are open on the quiet day of the week when you’re ready to explore. We ask you to park your car and linger by the oven with some snacks. We choose only the freshest, local ingredients so you can have a consolidated, seasonal experience. Smoke Signals is a bread lab and art space rolled into one. On a given bake weekend we have a rotating cast of artisans and visitors. We might do indigo dying while the oven heats up and make rubber stamps while the pies are baking. The integration of all aspects of production means that through the process we create something much larger than a single loaf of bread. The bakery is at once an experience and experiment in forging the good life. We want everyone who passes through the door to feel inspired to pursue their calling.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE AN ASPIRING CREATIVE ENTREPRENEUR?1. Any obstacle can be overcome with patience and creativity, but you must love the process of making your product or you will loose steam. 2.You must decide what kind of life you want to live. What are you OK doing without? What is necessary for you to feel fulfilled as a person? There are going to be hard times and you are going to have to work even when everyone else is gone off to the beach. If you can go through these moments with joy you can build a career that will last a lifetime. 3. It is important to surround yourself with others who not only encourage you, but who also provide an honest critique of your goals. Get acquainted with what it feels like to not take criticism personally. 4. Be comfortable with yourself. Take time to know yourself. All the answers and keys to your business success will come from having confidence in your desires, vision and goods. Practice feeling confident without having to compare or degrade others.
WHAT DOES AMERICAN MADE MEAN TO YOU?I am proud to be an American. Growing up in rural Maine I quickly learned the importance of hard work and ingenuity. My mother often sewed our clothes and my father spent hours restoring automobiles. It wasn’t uncommon that after the dinner dishes were cleared we would paint, draw or build wooden decorations. Imagination and daily chores were interwoven, each in balance with the other. Making your own fun, setting out on adventures, experiencing nature: these are all qualities of the American spirit I was introduced to as a youth. To me, American Made stands for building a better future through innovation, play and service to others. It captures the silhouette of my father as he tinkered away in the garage. It’s the light that falls on my mothers shoulder as she lifts her paintbrush from the page. American Made is who we are.
Lazy Fall Sunday.
The guys and goods at Boulted Bread in Raliegh!
Seashore Apple Pies.
Our first pizza night was a success! Heck yeah!