This is a photograph of work by all the participating Rising Fawn Tour artists taken by Julie Clark, one of them.
For those looking for unique Christmas presents for loved ones, those seeking something unusual and fun to do with their Saturday, those interested in the fine arts--and those who, like The Planet, have invasive noses and a healthy interest in what their neighbors are up to--this weekend brings a nice treat: On Saturday, Dec. 1, Lookout Mountain artists and craftspeople open their homes for the Rising Fawn Studio Tour. Seven artists will display their wares at five studios in the Plum Nelly area from 10 a.m.-4 p.m.
The Lookout Mountain art tour is an old Dade tradition but had fallen into abeyance in recent years until French-born silk artist Claire Vassort revived it in 2017. She enlisted neighbor Bonnie Cayce, who makes textile art, and her daughter, Anna Smit, who makes jewelry, to exhibit with her, and opened her own North Moore Road studio one Saturday last year. "There was a lot of foot traffic," she said. "Local people and a few from the larger area--it was encouraging. It really gave us the incentive to keep going."
So this year, Claire and Bonnie corralled four more neighboring artists:
Photographer Julie Hailey Clark, whose artistry readers may have admired even in these pages--she supplied The Planet a dramatic shot of the 2016 wildfires on the mountain--and who besides photography also sculpts in metal. At right is a metal-framed photo she will feature.
Julie and textile artist Vista Mahan, who makes mats, scarves and tapestries, will exhibit at 396 Plum Nelly Trail.
Potter Mark Issenberg will exhibit at Lookout Mountain Pottery, located at 3004 Plum Nelly Road;
Nikki Oliver will vend his Christmas-themed wood carvings at his studio, St. Nicks by Nick, at 436 S. Moore Road, close by Claire Vassort's own studio--
Silk by Claire, at 660 S. Moore. Claire works entirely in silk, producing not just paintings but scarves, lanterns and greeting cards. Meanwhile, the other exhibitors from last year--
Bonnie Cayce, will be exhibiting and selling her fabric art at 1400 Plum Nelly Road alongside her daughter, Anna Cayce Smit, who will have a small collection of holiday-themed jewelry as well as her regular stock.
All the studios are located reasonably close together, as can be demonstrated by Claire's handy map, below:
Claire says the artists participating are all cognizant of the season and have taken pains to produce smaller, giftable items suitable for Christmas shopping. Claire herself offers high-quality prints, not to mention the greeting cards, as well as her scarves, dramatic lanterns and framed originals. Carvings, sculptures and pottery are available in small sizes, Vista Mahan will feature small notecards, and Bonnie says her trendy wine totes (depicted below) are a popular gift item.
All the artists consulted by The Planet stressed that this year's tour is a continuation of a long history. The Rising Fawn Studio Tour was started by potter Sue Cannon, who says it grew out of her habit of bringing younger artists into her pottery studio, Rising Fawn Pottery, for collective shows. "I just ran out of room," she said.
So with local weaver Brenda McKaig she began organizing a multiple-studio tour sometime in the early-to-mid 1990s. It used to be closer to Thanksgiving than to Christmas in those days. Claire Vassort joined in shortly after she moved to the mountain in 2001, invited by local painters Ken and Becky Pennington.
But the studio tour itself grew out of something older. “There is a long tradition of artists on this mountain," said Claire. “It goes way back, just the fact that artists choose to live here.”
There was a vibrant artists' colony in the Plum Nelly neighborhood from at least the 1960s. Bonnie Cayce remembers coming to Plum Nelly shows when she was in college in the early '70s, and both Sue Cannon and Mark Issenberg studied under the famous Plum Nelly potter Charles Counts. The New Salem Festival grew directly out of those Plum Nelly shows, says Bonnie Cayce, with the Rising Fawn Studio Tour a more distant descendant. "I always say, 'in the tradition of,'" she said.
One way or the other, the Rising Fawn Studio Tour grew and prospered throughout the '90s and into the new millennium until, eight or nine years ago--when the economy collapsed, remembers Claire--it finally ran out of steam.
Now the trend seems to be in the other direction, one of new growth, from Claire and Bonnie's small show in 2017 to the seven artists this year and who knows how many in 2019. "I'm getting my studio ready to open next year," said Sue Cannon.
(Photo: An example of Claire Vassort's silk art.)
The artists hope the tour will be good not just for them but for the mountain as a whole, bringing visitors not only to their studios but to Lookout Mountain restaurants as well. The Mtn Top Cafe, Lookout Mountain Pizza Company and Canyon Grill are all listed on Claire's map, above, and The Planet also reminds readers of the Trading Post Smokehouse, at the intersection of Highways 136 and 157, and the Canyon Quick Stop, next door to the Mtn Top, whose old-fashioned grill in the back dishes up to-die-for cheeseburgers.
Again, hours for the Rising Fawn Studio Tour are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. this Saturday, and readers seeking more information are invited to visit the tour's Facebook page. Here's a link, and see you there!