Natural Creativity at The Frog Farm

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The guitarist of the Mud Rockers is constantly on stage at The Frog Farm.

Louise Cadney Coleman sculpts whimsical creatures from sticks and tree limbs. Her Frog Farm is a garden of folk art sculptures, mostly of anthropomorphic frogs doing un-amphibian-like things such as playing in a rock band or visiting a tiki bar.

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A frog bartender awaits visitors at the Tiki Bar inside The Frog Farm’s Sunbreeze Café.

Ms. Coleman was born in the small, rural community of Harriston, Mississippi, in the mid-twentieth century, and she grew up there on a hill with her 10 siblings. “We were true country children,” she said.

Scientist and Folk Artist
“I got started as a child making stick dolls,” she explains, “. . . Because there were a lot of us and they were not able to afford all the dolls I wanted, and I was a doll person. So I started making the dolls myself out of sticks, and I made clothes for them, and I gave them names.”

After graduating from high school in Fayette and earning a Bachelor of Science degree from Southern University in Baton Rouge, she was trained as a cytotechnologist (one who studies cells) at Mt. Sinai Hospital in Chicago. She never took any art classes.

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Louise Cadney Coleman

“Art is natural,” she says. “Science is a learned thing for me . . . If I had known at the time that I could have probably made a living as an artist, I probably would have been an artist all the way. But science is something that I knew I could make a living doing. And that’s the way I went. But then . . . art is my first love.”

After having established her career as a cytotechnologist, she returned to art and began selling her work at art shows and community heritage festivals. One customer in particular, a well travelled man from the Caribbean, saw tremendous creativity and promise in her work and urged her to have a showroom and museum representation. That was the encouragement she needed to indulge her sculpted frogs with an indoor and outdoor space of their own.

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Small beefeater sculptures are for sale inside the “Frog Nest,” which is the showroom and studio of The Frog Farm.

Next time, read about how The Frog Farm got its name and the attractions there. The Frog Farm is located at 186 Old Highway 61 Road, which is south of Lorman as you travel on Highway 61 South. The Frog Farm is on Facebook and can be reached by phone at 601-493-3420.

All artwork is copyright (c) Louise Cadney Coleman. All photographs are copyright (c) Beth Batton and the Mississippi Museum of Art.

To comment, fill in the form below or email Beth Batton at bbatton@msmuseumart.org.

A brief introduction to Mary Lola Scott, the nail polish painter

If you’ve ever painted your fingernails, you know the pleasure that a little bottle of bright, glossy color can bring. It transforms a dry nail into one that is shiny and fresh. Mary Lola Scott of Horn Lake, Mississippi, uses nail polish to paint canvases and exploits the sparkling, shimmering, saturated color to recreate masterpieces by Vermeer, Picasso, van Gogh, and other masters.

I had the opportunity to interview her on April 30, 2015, at the DeSoto Arts Council‘s gallery in Hernando. After I’ve had time to listen to the audio and video again, I hope to tell you the story – or to post audio or video of her telling the story – from her beginning (she painted a mural for Ludacris!) as an interior designer in Atlanta to her current artistic ventures.  Until then, here are a couple of photographs from our interview.

Mary Lola Scott

Mary Lola Scott being interviewed for the Mississippi Byways project

Mary Lola Scott with two of her nail polish paintings after van Gogh and Picasso

Mary Lola Scott with two of her nail polish paintings after van Gogh and Picasso

And here are a few photos of the DeSoto Arts Council Gallery and Gift Shop. Thank you, Margaret Yates, director of the D.A.C., for letting us use one of the rooms for the afternoon. (I’m sorry I had to turn off the lovely jazz music.)

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The Banks House (c. 1909) is on the National Register of Historic Places and is home to the DeSoto Art Council in Hernando.

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This is an upstairs room where I interviewed Mary Lola Scott for the Mississippi Byways project.

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Art was being installed at the Desoto Arts Council’s art gallery for the “Bloomin’ Art Show”.

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I am grateful to Mary Lola and John Scott for giving me plenty of time for the interview, for showing me Mary Lola’s paintings, and for telling me about her and her sons’ work.

All artwork is copyright (c) the artist. Photographs and text are copyright (c) Beth Batton and Mississippi Museum of Art.

Tupelo Hardware Company’s Arts Connection

Weather vanes on display in the front window at Tupelo Hardware Company

Weather vanes are displayed in the front window at Tupelo Hardware Company.

Household supplies, tools, and everything else from those annoying flying-monkey toys to iron cookware fill the shelves of the Tupelo Hardware Company, a three-story, brick store located on the corner of West Main Street and South Front Street in downtown Tupelo. A worn piece of masking tape marks the spot on the wooden floor where Elvis Presley is said to have bought his first guitar, and a stand up of Elvis with his guitar is in the window.

An Elvis Presley cutout, a guitar, and surveying supplies stock another display window at the store.

An Elvis Presley cutout, a guitar, and surveying supplies stock another display window at the store.

The store’s president and owner, George H. Booth II, is an arts supporter who serves on the board of the Gumtree Museum of Art. Having grown up in Tupelo, he knows more than one artist and collector in the area. Judging from his children’s creative endeavors, his love for the arts is shared by his family. His son, George H. Booth III, enjoys playing banjo and guitar for fun. He also makes the fourth generation of the Booth family to help operate the store, which the Booths opened in 1926. Writer Catherine Lacey is George II’s daughter and lives in New York. Her first novel, Nobody Is Ever Missing, was published last year and has been reviewed in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The New Yorker. In an interview with Louise Scothern for Granta, Lacey mentions that she majored in visual art and in creative writing in college.

Nobody Is Every Missing, a novel by Catherine Lacey. Book shot courtesy of FSG Originals.

Nobody Is Every Missing is a novel by Catherine Lacey. Photograph of book courtesy of and (c) copyright FSG Originals.

George Booth II and George Booth III at the store

George H. Booth II and George H. Booth III pause for a photograph at the store.

Within about 30 minutes of my meeting George II, he had phoned two artists and a collector and had jumped in the car with me to navigate me to Ashley Studio Pottery. Laura and Michael Ashley opened their studio and showroom in Tupelo in 2014. Stay tuned for future posts about them and their work.

Michael Ashley of Ashley Studio Pottery

Michael Ashley of Ashley Studio Pottery

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Shelves hold everything from linseed oil canisters to caps to a cardboard box with flying monkey toys.

Sources

Informal interview by Beth Batton with George H. Booth II, January 26, 2015.

“Welcome To Tupelo Hardward Company, Inc.,” Tupelo Hardware Company website, http://www.tupelohardware.com/aboutus.php.

Catherine Lacey, http://www.catherinelacey.com/.

Scothern, Louise, “Interview: Catherine Lacey,” Granta, 14 January 2014, http://www.granta.com/New-Writing/Interview-Catherine-Lacey.

John ________, “Tupelo Hardware & Elvis Part 3 – Johnson’s Sept 08 Trip,” YouTube.com. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RD0sGYF_vkg.

Except where noted, all photographs are copyright (c) Beth Batton and the Mississippi Museum of Art.

Southside Gallery: Mythos

Mythos installation

Mythos installation

On view at Southside Gallery, Oxford, Mississippi, until April 10 is Mythos.  The exhibition presents three different aspects of mythology as interpreted by Hailey Hodge, Seth Thibodaux, and Whitney Turnipseed, who are visual artists in the MFA program at The University of Mississippi.  Sculptures and two-dimensional, mixed media artworks represent the story of Icarus, fairy tales, and constellations.

Title wall for the exhibition, Mythos, which features the work of three graduating MFA students of the University of Mississippi

Title wall for the exhibition, Mythos, which features the work of three graduating MFA students of The University of Mississippi.

Hailey Hodge, Cosmogony. ink on Plexiglas. Copyright (c) the artist.

“Hailey Hodge is challenging the ancient mythology on constellations as she maps out her own contemporary myths by revealing today’s gods in the stars.” -Southside Gallery. ARTWORK: Hailey Hodge, Cosmogony. ink on Plexiglas. Copyright (c) the artist.

Hailey Hodge, Abledo 100%. ink on steel. Copyright (c) the artist.

Hailey Hodge, Abledo 100%. ink on steel. Copyright (c) the artist.

Hailey Hodge, installation view of Spectroscopy, Cosmogony, and Abledo 100%. Copyright (c) the artist.

Hailey Hodge, installation view of Spectroscopy, Cosmogony, and Abledo 100%. Copyright (c) the artist.

Seth Thibodaux, Chariot of the Sky.  screenprint on Solartex, charcoal, copper, rivets. Seth Thibodaux, Wing 1. steel, aluminum, and copper. Copyright (c) the artist.

“Seth Thibodaux is representing historical myths that encapsulate flight, such as the story of Icarus, and metaphorically transposing the reality of flying with the actual mechanics of modern day aviation.” -Southside Gallery. ARTWORK on wall: Seth Thibodaux, Chariot of the Sky. screenprint on Solartex, charcoal, copper, rivets.   On pedestal: Seth Thibodaux, Wing 1. steel, aluminum, and copper. Copyright (c) the artist.

Seth Thibodaux, Don't Fly Too Close to the Sun. screenprint on Solartex, charcoal, copper, rivets. Copyright (c) the artist.

Seth Thibodaux, Don’t Fly Too Close to the Sun. screenprint on Solartex, charcoal, copper, rivets. Copyright (c) the artist.

Whitney Turnipseed, Once Upon a Time. acrylic and paper on wood. Copyright (c) the artist.

“Fairytales are a strong influence in Whitney Turnipseed’s series as she sympathizes with the classical story of ‘Hansel and Gretel,’ and associates it to her experiences with the American foster system.” -Southside Gallery. ARTWORK: Whitney Turnipseed, Once Upon a Time. acrylic and paper on wood. Copyright (c) the artist.

Whitney Turnipseed, Abandon. acrylic and paper on wood. Copyright (c) the artist.

Whitney Turnipseed, Abandon. acrylic and paper on wood. Copyright (c) the artist.

For more information about this exhibition or these artists, please contact Southside Gallery at southside@southsideartgallery.com or at 662-234-9090.

All photographs are copyright (c) Beth Batton and the Mississippi Museum of Art.

To comment on this post or to write to the Mississippi Byways project:

Southside Gallery: Kaleidoscope

Southside Gallery is on the Square in Oxford

Southside Gallery on the Square in Oxford

Artists’ interpretations of mythology and the kaleidoscope are on view March 9 to April 10, 2015, at Southside Gallery in Oxford.  Two group shows, Kaleidoscope and Mythos, feature recent work by graduating University of Mississippi MFA students. I’ll first share some installation views of Kaleidoscope, with artwork by Terry LynnStacey Rathert, Elise Robbins, and Preston Tolbert. Images from Mythos will follow in a later post.

Stacey Rathert, Tea for Three. mixed mediums installation. Copyright (c) the artist.

“Stacey Rathert’s allegorical ideas on the kaleidoscope, which are deeply rooted in her childhood, are physically thrilling as she displays intricate patterns of images that juxtapose what is expected and what is true about herself.” -Southside Gallery. Above, Stacey Rathert, Tea for Three. mixed mediums installation. Copyright (c) the artist.

Terry Lynn, Roots. mixed mediums installation. Copyright (c) the artist.

“Terry Lynn explores personal and social identity in his artwork, incorporating other media into his paintings that are as diverse as the undulating shapes at the end of the kaleidoscope.” -Southside Gallery. Above and below, Terry Lynn, Roots. mixed mediums installation. Copyright (c) the artist.

Terry Lynn, Roots (detail). mixed mediums installation. Copyright (c) the artist.

Terry Lynn, Roots (detail). mixed mediums installation. Copyright (c) the artist.

Terry Lynn, Roots (detail). mixed mediums installation. Copyright (c) the artist.

Terry Lynn, Roots (detail). mixed mediums installation. Copyright (c) the artist.

 

 

 

 

 

Preston Tolbert, Platter 1. soda fired stoneware. Copyright (c) the artist.

“Preston Tolbert’s ceramic objects will elucidate the magical experience of gazing into a kaleidoscope to view the swirling colors and shapes.” -Southside Gallery. Above, Preston Tolbert, Platter 1. soda fired stoneware. Copyright (c) the artist.

Preston Tolbert, Vessel 2, soda fired stoneware; platters by Preston Tolbert hang on the wall. Copyright (c) the artist.

Preston Tolbert, Vessel 2, soda fired stoneware; platters by Preston Tolbert hang on the wall. Copyright (c) the artist.

Elise Robbins, Seeking Origin and Locating Stability. digital print. Copyright (c) the artist.

“The shifting and ever-changing patterns of the kaleidoscope are unmistakable in Elise Robbins’s series as she mimics its perplexing structures.” -Southside Gallery. Above, three works by Elise Robbins: Seeking Origin, Locating Stability, and Symmetrically Concentric 2. digital prints. Copyright (c) the artist.

Elise Robbins, Symmetrically Concentric 2. digital print. Copyright (c) the artist.

Elise Robbins, Symmetrically Concentric 2. digital print. Copyright (c) the artist.

Elise Robbins, Turnabout (detail). digital print. Copyright (c) the artist.

Elise Robbins, Turnabout (detail). digital print. Copyright (c) the artist.

 

 

 

 

 

 

For more information about this exhibition or these artists, please contact Southside Gallery at southside@southsideartgallery.com or at 662-234-9090.

To comment on this post or to write to the Mississippi Byways project, please use this form:

Introducing The Frog Farm

Sign for The Frog Farm at crossroads of Highway 61 and Old Highway 61, about three miles south of the old country store in Lorman

A tall frog sculpture and a sign direct travelers to The Frog Farm in historic Harriston. Artwork copyright (c) the artist.

Detail of the frog sculpture beside The Frog Farm sign on Highway 61. Artwork copyright (c) Louise Cadney Coleman.

Detail of the frog sculpture beside The Frog Farm sign on Highway 61. Artwork copyright (c) Louise Cadney Coleman.

The intersection of Highway 61 and Old Highway 61, the turn-off for The Frog Farm

The intersection of Highway 61 and Old Highway 61, the turn-off for The Frog Farm

A frog diorama by Louise Cadney Coleman in the "Frog Nest," the showroom and gift shop at the Frog Farm. Artwork copyright (c) the artist.

A frog diorama by Louise Cadney Coleman in the “Frog Nest,” the showroom and gift shop at The Frog Farm. Artwork copyright (c) the artist.

Louise Cadney Coleman, artist and owner of The Frog Farm. Artwork copyright (c) the artist.

Louise Cadney Coleman, artist and owner of the Frog Farm. Artwork copyright (c) the artist.

I’ll write more about The Frog Farm and its mastermind in the future. Thank you to Louise Cadney Coleman for permitting me to photograph and to post images of her artwork.

All photographs are copyright (c) Beth Batton and the Mississippi Museum of Art.

Dirt Roads Pottery, part two

Sharon Grimes, owner of Dirt Roads Pottery

Sharon Grimes, owner of Dirt Roads Pottery

The reason I call it Dirt Roads is because it winds and turns and everything I do is free form,” says Sharon Grimes, owner of Dirt Roads Pottery in Edinburg, Mississippi. “None of my two pieces come out the same. You can do more with hand built. And, I grew up on a dirt road.”

A dirt road near the potter's childhood home (photo courtesy of Dirt Roads Pottery)

A dirt road near Sharon Grimes’ childhood home (photo courtesy of Dirt Roads Pottery)

A platter in the "Sand Bar" glaze evokes the earthy, winding path of a dirt road.

A platter in the “Sand Bar” glaze evokes the earthy, winding path of a dirt road.

Dirt Roads Pottery is a second career for Sharon Grimes. In 2010, a fire destroyed her family’s store, Lofton’s Flowers and Gifts. “I worked there off and on since I was about 14 years old,” she said. She purchased the store from her stepfather and operated it for 17 years prior to the fire.

 

Grimes capitalizes on the Mississippi State University Bulldogs popularity, especially during the football team's successful 2014 season, with paw print ornaments and necklaces.

Grimes capitalizes on the Mississippi State University Bulldogs popularity, especially during the football team’s successful 2014 season, with paw print ornaments and necklaces.

“I didn’t have anything to do because the store had burned so I watched YouTube all day, video after video. I’m self-taught to a degree. I basically learned to do pottery over the Internet.” Donna Vosburg of Lov Pottery in Morton, Mississippi, also gave her pottery lessons, but Grimes adds, “You can’t learn everything in just four lessons.”

Grimes rescues cats, has them spayed and neutered, and cares for them on her pottery compound. (photo courtesy of Dirt Roads Pottery)

Grimes rescues cats, has them neutered, and cares for them on her pottery compound. (photo courtesy of Dirt Roads Pottery)

Having had a successful career in retailing, Grimes entered the creative economy applying her marketing and business experience to her pottery venture. “Probably, I’m more business and marketing than art. I want it to be functional. I’m probably more production, like a small factory.”

Indeed, the studio is productive. She hand builds pots and makes jewelry full time and clears enough profit to employ two assistants, one who glazes and another who helps with the jewelry and in the showroom.

One of the pottery and jewelry showrooms on the Dirt Roads compound (photo courtesy of Dirt Roads Pottery)

One of the pottery and jewelry showrooms on the Dirt Roads compound (photo courtesy of Dirt Roads Pottery)

She prices her work in what she describes as “that middle ground between wholesale and retail prices” to make it affordable for people to buy directly from her. “There’s no reason why a potter can’t compete with a gift shop…. My prices are good because I have no middle man.”

She retails directly from her showroom and, once a year, from three booths at the Canton Flea Market. Sales have been good. She had only four pots left at the end of 2014, and she has replenished her showroom inventory within the past month and a half. Next, she has an open-air showroom on the compound to fill. “We’ll open that up in the summer.”

Grimes' initial bracelets

Grimes’ initial bracelets

Her jewelry business is thriving, too. Her biggest sellers are bracelets with pearl-like beads and initial charms.

When asked what advice she has for artists, she responds, “They need to start on the marketing, and there are four dimensions to marketing: product, price, promotion, and distribution. They’ve got to balance all four of those. You’ve got to find a product that people are going to pay for. If you can figure out how to sell it yourself, you can make money at it.”

Bowls and spoons in Forest Green glaze and a bowl in the Destin Blue glaze

Bowls and spoons in Forest Green glaze and a bowl in the Destin Blue glaze

Still, she considers pottery “a good way to make a living. You have total control of your product. You don’t have to wait on anything from China. If something doesn’t sell, you can change it.”

Sharon Grimes doesn’t call herself an artist. A business woman and marketing pro, yes. “I might be more of a crafter,” she says. “I do put out those pieces that are single expressions, but that’s a small percentage of my line.” Making a handmade product not far from the dirt road where she grew up and seeing it fill a need in the market is what drives her.

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Dirt Roads Pottery signature on the back of a Mississippi platter

For more information, visit www.dirtroadspottery.com. Thank you to Sharon Grimes for permitting Mississippi Byways to reproduce images of her pottery and some of her photographs of the Dirt Roads Pottery studio compound.

Sources:

“Up from the Ashes.” The Carthaginian, April 7, 2011. http://www.dirtroadspottery.com/aboutus.html.

Berry, Abby. “Dirt Roads Pottery.” Today in Mississippi, October 2012. http://www.dirtroadspottery.com/aboutus.html.

Grimes, Sharon. Dirt Roads Pottery. http://www.dirtroadspottery.com/home.html.

Telephone interview by Beth Batton with Sharon Grimes, February 27, 2015.

E-mails from Sharon Grimes to Beth Batton, March 3 and 4, 2015.

Dirt Roads Pottery, part one

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Cats plus pottery plus a working studio off the beaten path (mine, at least) equals intrigue. Really, it was the cathedral window-looking decor on the side of a little red building and the sign, “Dirt Roads Pottery,” that made me turn around in the next church parking lot and double back to see what it was about and if an artist was there.

Showrooms at Dirt Roads Pottery, Highway 16, Edinburg, Mississippi (photograph courtesy of Dirt Roads Pottery)

Showrooms at Dirt Roads Pottery, Highway 16, Edinburg, Mississippi (photograph courtesy of Dirt Roads Pottery)

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Two neat and trim, red, wooden buildings are what you first see when you pull off Highway 16 in Edinburg, Mississippi, and into the gravel parking lot. A lounging cat or two lifts its head to stare at you. Potter Sharon Grimes (born 1957, Memphis, Tennessee) introduced me to Pumpkin and to Little Bit and told me I was welcomed to look around in the showroom and to take pictures.

Mississippi platter, red, swirls_750 pixelsThe newest building at Dirt Roads Pottery is the red showroom that caught my eye from Highway 16. Hundreds of glazed earthenware platters and bowls of various sizes with ruffled rims filled the shelves. There were also crosses on the shelves and ceramic spoons perched in the bowls. One of her glazes is as red as that crimson wax that people once dripped onto the back of their envelopes to seal them. Patterns are pressed into some of the platters.

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The pottery studio where all the pots are hand shaped, dried, glazed, and fired

The studio where all the pottery is created (photo courtesy of Dirt Roads Pottery)

On her compound are three small showrooms, one of them open air, and a small brick house where the pottery is shaped, dried, glazed, and fired.   Older outbuildings, such as a carport, shop, and garden sheds, are home to 22 or 23 cats, “all feral but a few.” She has them spade and neutered. “Part of the money from the pottery goes to the cats,” she says. Her nephew found Little Bit with a broken hip at the Carthage airport and brought her to Grimes, who paid for the kitten’s surgery. “Right now, no cat is turned away. My brother traps them. If people are going to destroy them, he’ll save them.”

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Little Bit hides under a showroom shelf of pottery.

How Sharon Grimes learned pottery on the internet and how she makes a living today in the pottery business will be the topic of Dirt Roads Pottery part two.

For more information, visit www.dirtroadspottery.com. Thank you to Sharon Grimes for permitting Mississippi Byways to reproduce images of her pottery and some of her photographs of the Dirt Roads Pottery studio compound.

 

Aside

Scenery from a moving car

Future blog posts will share images from Saturday’s visit to Dirt Roads Pottery in Edinburg, Mississippi, and Chahta Immi Cultural Center in Pearl River, Mississippi.  For now, here are a couple of off-kilter snapshots from the road.

Silhouette of a house, seen Highway 45 Alternate, south of Shannon, Mississippi, January 26, 2015

Silhouette of a house, seen Highway 45 Alternate, south of Shannon, Mississippi, January 26, 2015

Odd looking tree on Highway 16 between Carthage and Edinburg, MS

Odd-looking tree on Highway 16 between Carthage and Edinburg, Mississippi, February 21, 2015

Something permanent

Sanders Permanent Wave machine with a doll, Collection of Oren Dunn City Museum, Tupelo, Mississippi

Sanders Permanent Wave machine with a doll, Collection of Oren Dunn City Museum, Tupelo, Mississippi

That tightly curled hair on the head of Elayne Goodman’s subject (see yesterday’s post) is not far from what many girls and women in the 1930s desired so much that they would go to a beauty parlor and pay to be hooked up to what looks like a torture device. I came across the electric Sanders Permanent Wave machine in this photograph at the Oren Dunn City Museum, Tupelo. Electrical currents passed through wires, thus creating enough heat to keep the ladies’ hair curled, if not permanently, then at least until the next appointment.

(If you do an internet search for Sanders Permanent Wave machines, you’ll see circa 1930s photographs of small girls who must be all of five years old seated at the beauty parlor, connected to one of these machines, their mothers smiling and waiting for their own, darling little Shirley Temples to emerge.)

Can hair-dos be considered art?  Have you seen any masterful heads of hair lately? In Victorian times, people made jewelry from hair to remember their loved ones. Horse hair was expertly woven into upholstery cloth. Do you know anyone who makes art using hair?