Product designer Dejon Gee creates intentional designs based on her life in the Lowcountry.
Gee is a set decorator by day and recently worked on the Pickler and Ben Show. When she heard of the Alumni Atelier program, she jumped at the chance to try her hand at product design.
The Alumni Atelier is the brainchild of SCAD’s President Paula Wallace. For ten weeks, artists are given an endowment to further their creative endeavors. Gee was accepted to the program and created LowCo Wax and Gown, a lifestyle brand that sells candles and robes inspired by Savannah’s history.
Gee wrapped up the ten week period before Thanksgiving, and she has big plans for her line. We caught up with the Virginia native last week.
1. How did you get involved with the Alumni Atelier?
I applied for this endowment that was created by President Wallace, and she really has such a deep interest and care for not only students while they’re at SCAD, but professionally afterwards. This was her opportunity to allow artists to come back and provide and endowment so they didn’t have to worry about living or studio space—they could just create for a ten-week period.
I went to SCAD for graduate school and I finished in 2011, but found out about this program two years before I moved to Nashville. I grabbed everything off my refrigerator, grabbed the flyer, and was like, “When I get a second to breathe, I’m going to submit to this program, because I’ve had some ideas brewing really for years.”
2. What does LowCo Wax and Gown consist of?
The two products I really had it in my heart to create were a series of candles, which I refer to wax recipes, and robes, which I call gowns.
With the wax recipes, the product creation was really saying, “Okay, what is going to make this product different from the other candles that are out there on the market?” For my wax recipes and gowns, it’s really important to make it tell a story of the Lowcountry. I wanted everything to focus on that Georgia water coastal lifestyle and also bring in historical elements as far as folkloric recipes like herbs and flowers. All my scent profiles are reminiscent of something you might find in a recipe that your great-great grandmother might tell you to take if you have a cold. I call it modern folk remedies.
The gowns in my product line, I designed all the textiles, so all the textiles are very driven by the color scheme and the items we see in the Lowcountry—the flora, fauna, environment, historical elements.
3. Where do you get your inspiration for the line?
I have so many pictures and notes. It’s been coming for years, but the sunset, the way the trees are almost dripping and it’s spooky and enchanting and magical—that’s part of it. It’s magic. The under layers of it, that’s really what the storyline is all about. The whole brand is about so much more than just a product. It’s like a movement in my heart. It’s empowerment, manifesting your own powers and your best life, tapping into your inner magic. People have been in this place for generations and there are slaves and natives and colonists and different backgrounds fused together, and I feel like it’s a place where people have persisted and triumphed in the worst circumstances, the harshest conditions. And it’s this beautiful city still.
4. What’s your process for creating the products?
I really wanted to tell this rich story of herbs and culture and history in this product line. I decide to do this through an alter ego. So the entire product line is really manifested through my alter ego, Nadine. For me, it was the only way I could tell a story that was part magical realism, part fiction, part history. I’m not necessarily native to the Lowcountry, but it of course had a huge impact on me. So I used Nadine.
In my world, Nadine is fifth generation Lowcountry woman. She’s my age, in her mid-30s, and has a design background. The way I tell the story in my head, and I tell the story of each candle profile through this, I imagine she lives in a little cottage just off the salt marshes. The oldest part of her cottage is hundreds of years old, and she brings in dried herbs and flowers and she sits and studies and draws. But then she walks into the newer add-on to her cottage, which is very modern and sleek, and she sits at her marble countertop on her laptop and she creates the digital designs.
My candles have an intention. I have a moonlight candle, and it’s coriander, sage and whiskey. It can burn to draw love and welcome new beginnings. I’m aware I’m not prescribing that this will really happen, but this is the magic of it all. Your belief meets my intention when I create the candle. It’s a very ceremonial process, and I just hope that meets the person who wants to find all those things when they light that candle in their home.
5. What’s next for you and LowCo Wax and Gown?
Right now, what I’m really focused on is building that website portion of LowCo. I’ll probably be doing some pop-up shops. The movement part of it, I’m going to actually put this out there and manifest it. I really do have this deep love for Savannah and the people that are either traveling from other places and making it their home, people who come to school and stay here, or people just coming on vacation and they fall in love with the city. I really want to lead more information-based workshops, partner with different organizations all under the name of uplifting and manifesting your highest self. In my world it’s so many different things. It’s product design, it’s partnering with other organizations, it’s all that.