by Natalia Dutt, AmeriCorps Member
“Success is being able to create something I believe in.” These are the wise words from Nellie Rose, one of the familiar faces along Front Street and the Thomas community. Though this West Virginia native has been calling Thomas her home for three years now, she never expected she’d be able to live and work here full time while pursuing a creative career. Growing up just down the mountain in Elkins with textile artist parents, Nellie has always been encouraged to express herself creatively. When she got the opportunity to visit Japan for the first time at the age of 16 with her father for a trunk show she became enamored with the culture and the art of Shibori. Wanting to delve deeper into this country, she studied abroad there while in college before accepting a year long Full Bright scholarship which allowed her to hone in her practice with Shibori. During this year she was able to fully immerse herself in the Japanese culture and find her stride with her art.
Nellie never anticipated being able to move back to West Virginia full time. She assumed in order to be able to run a successful business selling her creations she’d have to live in a more urban area. When she was approached by the Tamarack Foundation to apply for a program that allowed her to get her work into urban areas all while living in West Virginia, she jumped at the chance. She moved back to Elkins and began work on Nellie Rose Textiles. Knowing that she could sell her product out of her mom’s shop all while being able to pay her rent each month made her realize that she could really pursue a successful career in the arts.
Nellie had been coming up to Thomas for years for nights of boogying at the Purple Fiddle, but it wasn’t until she was asked to participate in the ArtSpring festival (which happens Memorial Day Weekend) that she got a behind the scenes look into the emerging art community we have here. She eventually decided to take the plunge and move up to Thomas and fully become part of the community. She knows you can at times romanticize this town and the eclectic charm it provides, but she truly found a niche that nurtures her soul. Moving to Thomas and having the opportunity to run businesses out of this small rural town has allowed her to work with very little overhead. She has been able to surround herself with a community that is constantly encouraging one another. She has been able to collaborate with her partner and create a business that is a snapshot of their favorite things. A business that provided Thomas with their own, color coded used books. Being part of the Thomas community has allowed her the opportunity to branch out on ventures that seem vastly different than her regular craft.
Thomas is a place that at times can be indescribable. When talking about her favorite part of being in the Thomas community, Nellie has trouble putting her thoughts into words. “There is this energy that happens in Thomas right before ArtSpring, where it seems like everyone is emerging from winter showing off what they have been working on during the cold months,” she describes. It is what gives Thomas such a dynamic and creative economy. Nellie can’t really pinpoint the moment when she realized Thomas was truly her home, a place that made her soul feel at peace, however, when going to the Purple Fiddle after an unforeseen event that shook her community, being able to dance it out with her friends and loved ones made her realize she made the right choice in making Thomas her forever home.