Playing With Wool

Bug with pink nose and cute expression

Wool and metal bug by Debie Deaton

Debie Deaton sculpts with wool, creating colourful, upscale toys and puppets like this little bug. I met her at Mississippi’s Chimneyville Arts Festival earlier in the month and was immediately taken by her lovingly made, character-infused creations. A whole booth of these animated figures, each one unique, but all united by her humorous house style, is a carnival.  Continue reading

Nephila clavipes | Golden Silk Orb-weaver Spider

Large yellowish spider hanging from a web

Apologies to anyone who has a phobia of spiders – this isn’t the start of a series, I promise!

My sweetheart is scared enough of spiders to quiver and let out a loud, high-pitched squeal when he sees one. If a spider imprudently reveals itself indoors, I am called upon to relocate it using an upturned glass and piece of card.

Strangely, some spiders don’t give rise to that instinctive reaction. For instance, he’s developed a nodding acquaintance with a large spider that lives in a corner of my shed. He admires the little, sturdy jumping spiders for their feisty attitude, observing that if you attempt to scare one off, it holds its ground and sticks its front arms up in a boxer-like stance so it seems to be saying “I don’t think so!”.

And I ought to confess that this spider scared me more than it did him. It was hanging around with the right crowd: we found it suspended face high on a web in woodland outside Mississippi’s Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks last autumn.  Continue reading

Life In Clay: Mixed Media Artist, Harold W. Miller

Wind figure by Harold W Miller

I’m a fan of Harold Miller, a contemporary sculptor, who works in mixed media with a focus on clay and ceramics. His largest works are staged on 3D surrounds that have more in common with a theatre set than a traditional frame. Heads and figures, often embellished with tin or jewellery, emerge from textural backgrounds made from clay, stone and/or beautifully stained driftwood.

These two smaller figures show Harold’s technique and storytelling ability. The figures look self-contained, but their silence is lyrical. The man above is one in a series of wind figures wearing stylised, windswept cloaks. It’s almost impossible for the viewer not to imagine the story of his life, as if the clay could have its own history.

Woman by Harold W Miller

But when I first saw Harold’s work exhibited at Chimneyville Crafts Festival, it was this lady, captured in prayer, that I admired most. Her slim frame seems vulnerable and she is rapt in her faith. Though she is made of clay, she overflows with humanity. I can’t tell you her story, but I seem to feel the strength of her heart.

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Suzie Cranston’s Birdhouse Garden

When Suzie Cranston’s world was rocked by the death of her son, Peck, a sign saying ‘Peace begins in the garden’ inspired her to create a garden that would celebrate his life.

Beautiful at any time of the year, my sweetheart and I often pause to admire it on walks through our quirky little neighbourhood, Fondren, in Jackson, Mississippi. More than twenty years after starting the garden, Suzie is eager for others to enjoy it as much as she does. She welcomes visitors with a broad smile, pointing out things they may have missed: flowers, garden art, a new birdhouse and, in particular, things that Peck would have loved, such as the tortoises which appear everywhere.  Continue reading

Happiness In A Vase: Zinnias

Bunch of zinnias

This sweet little posy of zinnias was all the nicer for being a gift from Jim Rosenblatt. His official title may be Dean Emeritus of The Mississippi College School of Law, but he wears the unofficial title of Plant Enthusiast with the same self-depreciation and benevolent good nature.

Several years ago, he created a cutting / kitchen garden in an unused corner of the faculty’s parking lot. The soil is rich and crumbly now, after years of being tended, making the plot very productive. These zinnias were freshly gathered from there.

I wonder how many other people have benefitted from gifts of peppers, tomatoes, herbs and flowers from his car park plot? Many more will have their day brightened by spotting this city centre garden as they passed.  Continue reading

Delta: The House Of Blues

Delta doorway

The fabled Mississippi Delta is a small, alluvial flood plain between Memphis Tennessee and Vicksburg Mississippi – the home of the blues and rock and roll. Unlike your average river delta (note the small ‘d’) it’s not at the junction between a river and the sea.

The House Of Blues is Orlando’s tribute to the Delta. This door is flanked by the crossroads at Clarksdale, immortalised in several songs, and a map where the Delta appears as a soil-coloured triangle. The path of the Mississippi River is indicated by a gap in the artwork, letting us see through to the wooden boards.

The house of blues

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Roses at Greenwood Cemetery, Jackson, MS

White cemetery rose

I often visit cemeteries on my travels. My sweetheart is drawn to them, looking for curiosities such as green men, weeping angels and tough plants. At first I thought it was all a bit ghoulish, but several years on, I’ve come to appreciate their different characters. Some are neglected now; overgrown, but romantic for all that. Others are still neatly tended, formal, official.

One that I particularly love to visit is Greenwood Cemetery, a block or so away from the centre of Jackson, MS, where an extensive collection of roses grow ‘wild’. The site dates back to 1821. More than 100 unknown soldiers lie here, as well as Southern author, Eudora Welty, herself a rose lover.  Continue reading

Shack Up Inn

Red, White and Blues in The Delta

An old song drifted into my mind when I saw this week’s photo challenge prompt:

As I sit and bathe
In a wave of nostalgia
For an age yet to come.

Pete Shelley

That thought is perhaps best left dangling like a participle, though there is an oblique connection (trust me, there always is) to these oversized branding signs. They’re part of a past that I’ll never fully understand. I don’t know what DX stands for (I cropped the D out). I can’t even date them.

I used to see adverts and film segments on British TV showing American trucks pulling into American petrol stations, or teenagers hanging out in cars, getting soda from a drive-through that looked like a petrol station. In my naivety, I used to think this was nostalgia – that these scenes were retro-styled, hankering back to a loved, lost past. I didn’t realise it’s like that now. In places.

The present looks different, depending on where you are. American trucks really are L-shaped, with bonnets (hoods) like oversized cars. Sonics exist. No need for nostalgia – if a soda float floats your boat, it’s right here, right now.

But back to the signs and their context. Their bold colours and logos were once deployed to promote things, but today they’ve retired to the country. Together with a lot of old, corrugated tin and reclaimed wood, they now reside at one of the world’s most characterful B&Bs.  Continue reading