The second annual Lake Norman Folk Art Festival, presented by the Hickory Museum of Art, will take place on Saturday, Oct. 2 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at 4689 Giles Ave., Sherrills Ford. Admission and parking are free and open to the public. More than 25 folk artists from North Carolina and surrounding states will offer their work for sale. In addition, there will be special hands-on activities for children, live bluegrass music, art-making demonstrations and food available for purchase. “The Hickory Museum of Art has a large permanent collection of contemporary Southern folk art,” said Lisë Swensson, the museum’s executive director. “Last year, we decided to present this vibrant form of art through the Lake Norman Folk Art Festival. Following a highly successful first year, the festival is returning again this year to Sherrills Ford.” The event will be held on a private, lakefront lot owned by Myra and Darwin Smith. The Hickory Museum of Art invites the public to attend this free, family friendly event near Charlotte. More information about the artists and festival can be found at LakeNormanFolkArtFestival.com along with directions to the event.
Artist finds her calling in clay
Tammy Leigh Brooks, of Hickory, spent many years working for the telephone company, until a pottery-making class at the Hickory Museum of Art changed everything. Now, she makes a living as a potter, specializing in realistic chickens that have been featured in magazines around the world. Brooks will be one of 28 self-taught artists who will sell their work at the Lake Norman Folk Art Festival on Oct. 2. Brooks grew up in Hickory and went to work for the phone company after she graduated from high school. She felt she found a good, stable job. However, her life began to change when a friend encouraged her to take an evening class in pottery making. Brooks was fascinated with “playing in the clay” and spent many hours after work experimenting and learning. Two years later, at age 32, she quit her job at the phone company. “The manager just laughed at me when I told him I was quitting to make pots,” she recalled. “He thought I was joking.” But Brooks was passionate about pottery. She took two more short classes to learn how to throw on the wheel, and then taught herself the other skills she would need. “It didn’t come easy, and it’s not been a good thing financially,” she said. “But I’ve just stuck to it and tried to live the dream.” She has now spent half her working life as a potter. Brooks knew she needed to find her niche to be successful since there are so many talented potters in the area. But she didn’t make a chicken for the first 10 years. She made her first rooster as a commission for a woman who was getting married. “As soon as I made it, everybody wanted it,” she recalled. “I realized I was on to something.” Her first big break came when she listed one of her chickens on e-Bay. An art dealer from New York City bid on it but was unsuccessful. However, he followed up and invited her to participate in the 2007 Raw Arts festival in New York. He commissioned $10,000 worth of her work, which he sold at his booth. She made another important contact through the International Association of Guinea Fowl Forum, which she found online while looking for photos of different chicken breeds. In response to a posting she left on the site, she was commissioned to make two pottery chickens in the likeness of a Delaware woman’s pet birds. Afterward, Brooks was featured in the magazine “Backyard Poultry.” She was later featured in “Fancy Fowl,” a magazine published in the United Kingdom and distributed worldwide. She eventually met the publishers of “Fancy Fowl” and made a pottery replica of their prize-winning Polish rooster, which had been stolen at a poultry show. Chicken shows are a big hobby, especially in Europe, she said. Brooks has continued to make pottery versions of various chicken breeds. She learns what they look like by studying books with photos of different breeds and by looking at online photos and videos. Her stoneware birds range from the ultra-realistic to the whimsical. Her “Big Head” roosters are the more fanciful type. She made three of these huge rooster heads, which are 30 inches tall. Brooks hand-builds the chickens by coiling the clay. Then, she spends a month or more working on the details. During this time, she keeps the clay moist by spraying it with water and keeping it covered in plastic. She said she is a perfectionist when it comes to achieving the right look. She fires the piece once, applies glazes, and then fires it again. Brooks uses commercial clay and either a gas-fired or electric kiln, depending on the look she wants to achieve. Brooks said she hears from many of her customers that the pottery birds are so realistic they almost become a part of the family. Brooks is now spreading her wings by making different types of fowl. She recently completed a wild turkey and plans to make pheasants in the future. Whether her creations are realistic or whimsical, she hopes they will make people smile. “I feel like if God gave you the talent to do it, you should be doing it,” she said. — Special to Outlook by Margaret Allen
Artists and activities
The Hickory Museum of Art recently announced a complete list of artists and activities for the Lake Norman Folk Art Festival on Oct. 2. This is the second year of the festival, which will be held from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at 4689 Giles Ave., Sherrills Ford. Admission and parking are free to the public. Nearly 40 artists, from as far away as St. Louis, Mo., are expected to attend. Visitors may also reach the festival by water. The Landing Restaurant is providing a shuttle boat service using its Pontiki pontoon boat.
Artists in the festival include: Painters, Steve Brooks and Joe LaFone, Wanda Clark, Kimberly Dawn Clayton, Theresa Disney, Kristen Feighery, Patti Fenick, Theresa Gloster, Tim and Lisa Kluttz, Moni Hill, Gypsy Lizz Hundley, Keesha Freeman Meroney, Harriet McGee, Jack and Delma Turner, Sarah Rakes, Cher Shaffer, Elise Starnes, John Sperry/Primitive Folks. Potters Michael Ball, Tammy Leigh Brooks, J&M Helton Pottery, Daniel Johnston, Melanie Micale/Chameleon Clayworks, Gary Mitchell, Barbara Miller, Kathy Richards, A.V. Smith, Kaye Waltman, Jeff Young, Sculptors Robert Oren Eades, Mike Esslinger, Larry Kepley, Roger Sharpe/Bearfoot Chainsaw Carving, and Jim Shores
Other media Ray Searcy and Taffy Sides/S&S Workshop (turned wooden bowls), Artrageous Folk/Denny Maloney (copper-enamel creations). Chainsaw artist Roger Sharpe, of Terrell, will be conducting demonstrations. There will be live bluegrass music and group art-making activities for children and adults alike. Barbecue lunch will be on sale.
Children’ art activities
Theresa Gloster, a folk artist from Lenoir, will lead children in creating their own memory paintings between noon and 3:30 p.m. Pre-registration is not required, and there is no charge for this activity. If they wish, children may bring their own water-based paints, such as tempera or acrylic, and brushes. They may also bring small household objects that they wish to paint, such as shoes, clothing, wood, egg cartons or small boxes.
Children do not need to pre-register or bring any supplies. However, they may bring a small item that they would like to paint, such as a piece of wood, a pocketbook, a pair of shoes or another item from their home. A parent or other responsible adult is asked to remain with the children at these festivals, where adult activities will also be available.
Gloster is a native of West Virginia whose paintings often reflect her childhood memories, such as washing her hair in the rain, catching fireflies and attending church. She was inspired to begin painting by watching a television show about another folk artist. Her colorful and evocative paintings have since become popular with parents and children alike.