A new studio and shop on Main Street is bringing some “Earth and Soul” to downtown Marion.
On Thursday, Earth and Soul Studio first opened its doors at 14B North Main St., which is a storefront section within the old Hotel James building. This new business is yet another unique and different addition to Marion’s rapidly changing and progressing downtown.
Earth and Soul Studio combines the vibrant colors of Bobby Stiers’ artwork with the natural skin creams, balms, salves and soaps handmade by Nikki Chester. The eclectic studio and shop also features an assortment of colorful tie-dyed clothing, handcrafted jewelry, gemstones and all kinds of interesting items.
The name for the studio is inspired by their passions in natural products and imaginative art.
“It’s my Earth and his soul,” said Chester.
For both Stiers and Chester, this place allows them to show off their creations in their hometown rather than having their work in other cities and towns.
Stiers’ artwork has been displayed in galleries in Asheville, Morganton and Atlantic Beach. His paintings have also been featured at the Arrowhead Gallery in Old Fort.
He was inspired to do this a few years ago when he saw another artist create a galaxy scene. He tried his hand at creating art and he’s been doing it since.
“I started painting two and a half years ago and I traveled all over,” he said. “It’s sad that I left my hometown to spread my influence.”
But at Earth and Soul Studio, he’s bringing it all back home.
“I was on the verge of going to Asheville to start up this store but I really wanted to stay and let my hometown see what I’m about,” he added.
His vivid paintings feature a variety of subjects, symbols and images. Some of his paintings feature realistic scenes and one was inspired by the wildfires in Gatlinburg, Tenn. during the fall of 2016. Other works are more imaginative and introspective.
“I want to make art that reaches into you and you decide how you feel about it,” he said.
His paintings range from $30 for the smaller ones up to $300 for the larger works. His shadow boxes can cost around $800. But if you buy a shadow box, the cost of the larger gallery canvases come down in price to accommodate any situation or season, said Stiers.
He also sells affordable canvases for people who would like to try their hand at painting too. He plans to host paint parties.
Chester’s portion of the studio features her all-natural products with no chemicals or dyes. She makes soaps, lotions, herbal salves, lip balms, muscle rubs, sugar scrubs, coffee scrubs and insect sprays. Her business is called Nikki’s Nourished by Nature and it has “all kinds of good stuff,” she said.
Their studio has black lighting that illuminates the paintings in some unusual ways. At night, the artworks glow under the black light and can easily be seen from the street.
“It’s amazing to see how a painting comes to life under a black light on a canvas,” said Stiers.
Earth and Soul carries crystals, gemstones, glass-blown jewelry and hand-crafted jewelry. You can choose from an assortment of colorful tie-dyed shirts. The tie-dyed items are made by Travis Spears and Katie Spades of Atlantic Beach. They even have onesies for adults which can keep you warm in the cold winter.
“That’s something you wouldn’t find in Asheville,” said Stiers of the onesies.
Earth and Soul Studio is the first business to open inside this historic and massive building in a long time. Don Burleson is now the owner of the old Hotel James building.
The partners with Earth and Soul said they are excited to be a part of downtown Marion’s rebirth. Their studio is located across the street from Burrito Bros., Refinery 13, the Crooked Door Coffee House and Sunkissed Tanning. Mica Town Brewing is close by, too.
Chester said one of their biggest questions confronting them before they opened was “Is Marion ready for this?”
After much thought and work, they realized the answer was yes.
“This weekend went pretty good,” said Stiers on Monday following the grand opening. “We had a nice turnout. We got to meet a lot of awesome people.”
Chester and Stiers said they want their business to help support local first responders and sponsor causes like Brother Wolf of McDowell County. “We do aim to give back to the community,” said Chester.
As for the new downtown Marion, Chester said “It’s coming together and we’re a part of it.”