By Lauren Helmer
The jewel-box interior juxtaposes a deep, soulful blue wall with a golden-dijon velvet antique sofa. Striking art, handmade leather goods, imaginative stationery and journals, fragrant elixirs and lotions, chocolates, books and candles are displayed in arrangements. The originality of this curated collection is no accident.
Dreamer’s Supply Co. owners Kaitlin and Alan Slattery are intentional curators.
Artists in their own right, the Slatterys never have been afraid to dig deep, dream big and take risks to find their authentic dreams and create their own art. Dreamer’s Supply Co. in Forest Park is one of those dreams, but it didn’t happen overnight.
The two met when Minnesota-native Alan came to Birmingham to attend ministry school at Church of the Highlands. Kaitlin, who grew up in Cahaba Heights, and Alan connected over a shared love of theater, he in set design and she in musical theater. After a year of friendship, they began dating. Each briefly attended college, but both were left feeling less-than-fulfilled by the experience.
“I was bothered with how many classes I was taking that had nothing to do with set design,” said Alan. “I just felt like, ‘I’m not paying you to make me a well-rounded person. I can do that on my own. I’m paying you to give me information about a specific skill.’”
From Kaitlin’s viewpoint, “I just wanted to wait until I knew exactly where I wanted to go and exactly what I wanted to go for. That way, I could really take it on wholeheartedly.”
One thing they did know was that they were meant for each other. So, they got hitched and set about finding their place in the real world, all the while nurturing their artistic sides. Kaitlin loved drawing and Alan enjoyed working with leather.
“I had been playing with leather for quite a while, just figuring it out on my own,” he said. “I was also a little frustrated because there were things in my head that I wanted to create that I just didn’t have the skill set for yet.”
But on an anniversary trip to Savannah, Georgia, they found their North Star – on the side of a bus.
“I remember where I was when I saw the bus go by with a picture of a person making shoes and it said, ‘Accessory Design’,” Alan said. It was a Savannah College of Art & Design ad. “And I thought, ‘That’s a thing? Oh, my God. Why did I never think of this?! I just started going crazy thinking about how this was a real thing, and I couldn’t believe that someone would teach someone how to do it.”
Kaitlin, who had earned a scholarship to attend SCAD her senior year but was unable to attend at the time, silently took note of the university’s presence in the city. Both of their wheels were turning.
In the car on the way back home, Alan recalls thinking, “This is insane. We have insurance and jobs. … Going to school in Savannah … . She will never be on board for this. I’m just going to say it.”
And they simultaneously blurted out, “I want to go to SCAD.”
Their choice to invest their money – and hearts – in SCAD was validated by the practical, reality-based training they received.
“They use the equipment that you’re going to use in real life. And my illustration professors were all still working and doing freelance, because that is their first love,” Kaitlin said. She said her professors would use examples from their own contracts and exchanges with art directors, showing students how to navigate the business side of their trades.
Upon graduation, they considered moving to New York, like most of their SCAD counterparts, but true to Slattery form, they pragmatically crunched the numbers and looked inward at their desire to start a family, to be surrounded by family and to own their own business. All of those things were possible in Kaitlin’s Magic City hometown. So, they moved back to Birmingham and began dreaming up Dreamer’s Supply Co.
Their French Escape
It wasn’t long before SCAD came calling with another opportunity, the Alumni Atelier ambassadorship in Lacoste, France. Even though Kaitlin was pregnant with their first child, they couldn’t resist the chance to have three months to create a beautiful body of work together and to experience gallery ownership as they ran an atelier in Provence. They applied and got word of their acceptance in the hospital delivery room, just after the birth of their baby boy, Harrison.
In the idyllic French village, as they created a leather travel accessories collection, handmade by Alan and hand-painted by Kaitlin, they formulated their business plan, logo and all, for Dreamer’s Supply Co. They returned in August of last year and opened the shop a mere month later.
Kaitlin marvels at the way the ambassadorship morphed their dream into a reality.
“I think about that experience every single day … . In such a dreamy environment, it was easier to focus on the possibilities,” she said.
Alan agreed, “It was amazing for us emotionally, spiritually, physically to be removed, to rest and really think, ‘What do I want? What do I have stirring in me that needs to be created and come out?”
What came out of them was a way to combine her illustrations and his leather accessories, community events, gallery shows and parties at their longtime-dream-turned-reality, Dreamer’s Supply Co.