Christmas is just around the corner, and we all know the most meaningful gifts are always those made by an artist’s hands. On Saturday, December 1, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., a talented group of artists in the New Salem community on Lookout Mountain, myself included, will open up our shops and studios for visitors. We will offer a huge variety of handmade items for purchase, as well as information about our crafts. Participants include Claire Vassort (silk painter), Vista Mahan (quilter, handmade card maker) Mark Issenberg (potter), Bonnie Casey(textile artist), Anna Casey Smit (jeweler, ornament maker) Nikki Oliver (wood carver) and myself, Julie Hailey Clark (metal worker and photographer).
The New Salem community has long been a landing place for artists. Fannie Mennen (print maker), Virginia Dudley (metal sculptor), Charles Counts (potter) and Frank Baisden (painter) all called this special place home from 1930-1990. Frank Baisden started the art program at the University of Chattanooga, which is now known as UTC. Fannie Mennen was well known for her craft fair called the Plum Nelly Art Show. In 1947, she and the other artists hosted what they called a “clothes line” art show, and it became so popular it turned into the larger Plum Nelly festival, which continued until the early 1970s. I am certain many of you used to attend the Plum Nelly Art Show. I still have a pillow on my bed that I purchased there as a child.
A few of the artists in the December studio tour have personal connections with these artists from the past. Mark Issenberg was a student of Charles Counts, who held pottery workshops in New Salem in the ’70s. Mark now lives on the home site where Fannie Mennen held the Plum Nelly Art Show. My parents, Julie and Bill Hailey, were dear friends of Frank and Kay Baisden and Virginia Dudley, and our farm was next door to Charles Counts’ pottery shop, which is still there. My husband, Bruz, and I live on the same land where Frank and Kay Baisden lived, and Vista and her husband, Charles Mahan, spent their very first date at the Plum Nelly Art Show in 1969.
When I was a child, whenever we spent the weekend at our family farm, Virginia Dudley stopped by to visit. She was a very talented and eccentric metal artist and a truly unusual (in a good way) character. I was always struck by the fact that she never brushed her matted hair. Isn’t it funny what you remember from childhood? But, what is really funny is that I am a metal worker and, I swear, I never brush my hair. I just put it in a ponytail and go. So, as you can see, the creative spirits from the past are still hovering around, and the creative spirits of today invite all of you to please come see us in our beautiful com- munity of New Salem on Lookout Mountain on Saturday, December 1. For more information and a map, email Julie Clark at firstname.lastname@example.org, or search for “Rising Fawn Studio Tour” on Facebook.