Arts & Culture

Fifteen Years of “Made in the South”: For These Brands, Winning Changed Everything

A look back at five success stories from G&G’s annual celebration of makers

Photo: Fredrik Brodén | Tarra Donne


Fifteen years ago, G&G launched the Made in the South Awards to celebrate the talent and hard work of makers throughout the region. The hundreds of ceramicists, bakers, luthiers, blacksmiths, brewers, embroiderers, designers, and other creatives we’ve had the privilege of spotlighting have inspired and delighted editors and readers alike. But no one has felt more impact from the program than the winners themselves. For many brands, the honor of winning has provided just the spark they needed to take off. 

“If you’re applying, and if you are lucky enough to win it, be prepared for growth,” says Nick Weaver of Blue Delta Jeans, who won the Style category in 2019. “Because that’s what’s going to happen.” 

If you’re a Southern maker, enter the awards now, or send the link to a friend who fits the bill. And read on for five Made in the South success stories. 


Blanc Creatives

2015 Overall Winner

photo: TARA DONNE

In 2015, Corry Blanc and a handful of assistants worked out of a two-bay mechanic’s garage, building furniture, forging iron railings and gates, and crafting gorgeous carbon steel cookware. Then he won the Made in the South Awards. “You can clearly look at the business as pre–Made in the South and post–Made in the South,” Blanc says. “Pre, we were really local, doing things at farmers’ markets and with local chefs. Now I’ve got a 1,600-square-foot warehouse and twelve full-time employees.” The shift was so stark that the day he found out he won is still ingrained in his mind. “I remember when the news came out, it was lunchtime, and all of a sudden it was just ‘order, order, order, order’ pinging on my phone.” Soon, the team commanded a nine-month wait list. “That day cemented Blanc Creatives as a culinary cookware company. If you’re doing something you enjoy, enter. If you do win, this is going to be your thing. It’s a really powerful competition.” 


Blue Delta Jeans

2019 Style Winner

A lot has changed since Nick Weaver and Josh West’s bespoke denim company, Blue Delta Jeans, won the 2019 Style category of the Made in the South Awards. “In 2019 we probably had fifteen employees—now we are about seventy,” Weaver says. “That year we made five thousand jeans—last year we made fifty thousand.” Since then, they’ve also partnered with the U.S. Ryder Cup team, making pants for all the players, and last year they collaborated with Churchill Downs for the Kentucky Derby’s 150th anniversary. They’ve also expanded their inventory to include custom leather belts and canvas waxed jackets. “We were an up-and-coming brand, and G&G found us before a lot of people had heard of us,” West says. “When G&G puts its stamp of approval on you, it’s validation.” 


Jules & Vetiver 

2021 Crafts Runner-Up

photo: Fredrik Brodén

“What surprised me the most was that even though G&G is very geared towards Southern culture, the magazine has so much national reach,” says Katrina Sellers, whose fragrance company Jules & Vetiver was a runner-up in the 2021 Crafts category. “I was getting orders from the Pacific Northwest and Wisconsin and Montana, specifically for the product in the Made in the South issue.” For Sellers, it made all the hard work that had gone into starting a business worth it. “It’s a rollercoaster of emotions to be a maker, and to get that kind of exposure is a huge boost in confidence,” she says. “It legitimizes your company and can be the flint that a brand needs to start a fire. Anyone who is eligible to enter and is not entering is out of their minds.” 


Stono Knife Works

2019 Outdoors Winner

photo: DAVID RINELLA

Alec Meier had been making knives almost his entire life and founded his company, Stono Knife Works, in 2016. But it wasn’t until winning the Made in the South Awards’ Outdoors category in 2019 for his Blue Ridge camp knife—which, along with a stunning Damascus steel blade, incorporated a topographical map in the handle—that the gig became his true vocation. “I was doing it part-time and overnight, as soon as that article dropped, it was a full-time job,” he says. “I quit everything else, and I’ve gotten to make knives ever since.” 


Bittermilk 

2013 Drinks Winner

photo: TARA DONNE

When Joe and MariElena Raya launched their craft cocktail mixer company, Bittermilk, in 2013, most of their initial orders came from family and friends. “We would go into these shops, asking if they wanted to carry our mixers, and they’d be like, Who are you? Go away,” Joe says with a laugh. “And we’d get an online order and get so excited, and then it was, like, my grandma.” That all changed when the duo was named the 2013 Drink category winner. “In that month after the magazine came out, we sold ten thousand bottles of Bittermilk No. 1 through our online store.” In the decade since, their team has grown, their sales have increased, and they’ve expanded into larger facilities. In fact, soon they’ll break ground on a new location outside of their headquarters in Charleston, South Carolina, with a taproom and tasting room. “Having that early push from G&G was so integral to the success of the brand,” Joe says. “The readership is a thoughtful, loyal, quality-driven crowd that appreciates craftsmanship. Entering the awards in order to reach them is a no-brainer.”


About the Made in the South Awards

Garden & Gun’s Made in the South Awards honor the best products crafted in the region today. Winners and runners-up in each category are selected by a panel of G&G editors and guest judges and will be featured in the pages of the December 2024/January 2025 issue, and one overall winner will take home $15,000. Deadline to enter is June 17.

For more details and the entry form, visit madeinthesouthawards.com


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