After leaving her job, Sanford spent a period of time not working, but creating. Sanford was gifted a sizable amount of sewing equipment. “I am one of those people who stubborn and eager to learn new things. I taught myself to sew and began making everything. It’s still not perfect, but I love it,” Sanford says pointing to the paisley purple and turquoise blouse. In July 1990, Karma Boutique was established.
The clothing that Terri Sanford creates is heavily inspired by her love of 70’s rock and all things Stevie Nicks. This is clear by the fringe, lace, vintage cash register, and prized picture of herself with her idol. She gleamed with pride recalling taking that picture in her store. The patterns on the clothing are as unflinchingly conspicuous as the designer. Sanford’s style appears effortless. Imagine the edgy alternative girl that makes bed head something to aspire to. Her clothing offers a wild bohemian image.
Karma sells women’s apparel and accessories, but there are two things that really set the store apart from others in the area. The majority of the clothing was handmade by Sanford, and the eclectic clothing is starkly juxtaposed against a honky-tonk background. If you look out the window it is not uncommon to see a herd of cowboy’s walking by without a glance. “I used to get a lot more traffic down here, especially during First Saturday, before they closed the gallery,” says Sanford.
On the first Saturday of every month Nashville hosts an art crawl. The galleries along 5th and Broadway open there doors to the public. Local talent is highlighted, and the cowboy hats are overrun by cocktail dresses. Though most of the galleries with exhibits can be found on 5th avenue a few more are scattered around downtown. Karma Boutique is only open on the weekends, Friday through Sunday. A surge in business occurred at the beginning of every month when there was till a gallery two businesses down. “During First Saturday, I put everything on sale. 30 percent off of everything in the store, but no one from the art crawl takes advantage,” she explains.
Sanford’s passion is making clothes. She takes great pleasure in seeing people enjoy her creations. At Karma Boutique there is a bartering system. She explains why she is so open to the idea, “I realize that the people who enjoy my clothes may be, well broke.” Sanford experimented with selling her clothing at music and arts festivals, where trading is customary. Sanford loudly exclaims, “Sometimes I got something you want, and you got beads [for jewelry] or something. We may never see each other again, so we gotta work something out.” Sanford is willing to swap items in order to continue creating new things.
An artist and designer that is often featured in Karma along side its owner is Dana Janell. Dana designs some women’s apparel, but is known for her eccentric bow tie designs. “Terri works so hard,” says Janell, “She is the only one who works in the store, and creates the majority of the inventory.” Janell has been selling her bow ties in the shop for the past three years. She enjoys Sanford’s lively personality, and her passion for art.
Karma Boutique has had a few homes in Nashville. Sanford has been forced to relocate in order to avoid rent hikes in prior buildings. The store has been in the current location for 4 years. “I am surprised really that the store has made it this long. I just wanted a place to share my work,” she says, “Even after the doors close I will never be able to stop sewing.” Karma’s creator laughs as she describes a world where she designs clothing and accessories even if she just stacks them in her home.
This weekend March 7th there will be another art crawl in downtown Nashville. Once again the streets will be filled with artists, and others seeking culture in the home of country music. Terri Sanford will be opening her doors at 3pm. Take a moment and step through the wormhole. Trade in the banjos, and smell of leather; for classic rock, and lavender incense wafting through the air. Visit Karma, and meet Terri Sanford.