The HarCo Cotton series was inspired by what the vision of The Mill in Fuquay-Varina was to be and has since become for me and many people in our small, but ever-growing community. When I was commissioned to make photographs for the wall art, it was important to me to avoid the coffee shop clichés of photos of cappuccinos and town landmarks. I also didn’t want to go with the obvious choice of photographing restored grist mills, or old cotton mills that have since been turned into trendy condos.

The Mill is coffee, beer, wine & community. Coffee, beer and wine pictures can be picked up in the aisle of a big box store or found on the walls of model apartments everywhere. Community, however, is a bit more complex. It’s cultivated, not conjured. It’s a discussion, not a lecture. I gave that some thought and decided cotton would be my subject based on the fact that this little shrub has a deep history and is responsible for building and sustaining so many communities around the world. Cotton has absorbed the blood, sweat and tears of the people who built this country while providing the soft comfort of a pillow or blanket for the weary. Its value is more than its price at market.

The textile mills of the Carolinas have been the cornerstone of many communities and have given us the template for what we now refer to as “Main Street, USA”. As many of these mills have closed their doors across the Southeast, Main Street communities are being forced to find new ways to thrive or risk becoming another sepia 8x10 memory hanging in the bathroom of a supercenter or chain buffet.

There are a lot of seeds to be dispersed from a cotton boll and there are a lot of little seeds in Fuquay-Varina. On any given day, one can see them in The Mill growing into something that’s being woven together. Something stronger than a sum of its parts and more valuable than its price at market. Business meetings, church planning, new relationships, shared sorrows, encouraging words, history being told and history being made. That all sounds like a lot of pressure and one sap-filled word away from hyperbole for a place less than a year old. The “fabric of our lives” sounds like a lot of pressure and a bit of a stretch for a fibrous little plant too.

- JG