Young at Art

By giftshop  |  November 5, 2012  | 

Six Creative Delta Spirits
by Susan Marquez

There’s a creative spirit that moves across the Delta, and several young artists have been captured by its spell. Many of them had moved away, thinking they’d left the Delta behind. “When I moved to the Caribbean, I was certain I was gone from Indianola for good,” says Brooks Roberts. “But those hooks reached out and grabbed me and I was pulled back home. There’s something about this place that draws people back and keeps them here.”

Brooks Roberts: Delta Pop-Folk Art
Armed with a degree in agriculture from Mississippi State, Roberts went to work for Delta and Pine. “It didn’t take me long to realize that was not for me. I moved to the Virgin Islands in 2004.” After working for a few years as a boat captain and dive instructor, Roberts eventually ended up coming back home to launch a pizza restaurant with his college roommate. A self-taught artist, the 32-year-old took up photography after college. When he needed large-scale artwork to cover the walls in their Indianola restaurant, he created paintings of blues artists. “Those turned out pretty good, so I started doing more paintings and it took off from there.” Roberts calls it Delta folk-pop art, a hybrid style that incorporates a pop art feel, but instead of canvas, he uses old barn wood “and anything else I can find to paint on. That’s what gives it that raw Delta feel.”

The artist has a studio in his home in Indianola where he creates his work. “It’s kind of like my man-cave!” He does commission work, but that’s getting more difficult due to the time pressures of owning and franchising a number of restaurants.

Roberts’ work is on display in Lost Pizza Company locations in Indianola, Cleveland, Tupelo and Southaven, as well as in Gallery Point Leflore and other gifts shops and restaurants.

Rebecca and Peyton Potter: Hooked on Handmade
When Rebecca Potter married her husband, Peyton, she never dreamed her new name would define her so well. After the birth of their first child, Rebecca took a pottery class at First Presbyterian Church in Greenville and was hooked. “Peyton ended up buying me a pottery wheel so I could do it at home since it was a 30-minute drive.” As she began turning pots at their Arcola home, Peyton watched, and eventually learned to turn pots too. The third-generation farmer got hooked as well, and the couple began their own line of pottery, named Red Leaf Pottery after the family farm, Red Leaf Plantation.

Peyton, 34, still farms, but he’s very hands-on with the design of the pottery. “He’s really the creative one,” says Rebecca Potter, 30. “I’ll have an idea for something, then he’ll come in and tweak it, and it will be amazing.” Together with two assistants, they create dinnerware, serving pieces, animals, crosses and seasonal items. In addition to a large gallery adjacent to their Arcola studio, the pottery is wholesaled to shops throughout Mississippi, Arkansas and Tennessee, and shipped all over the United States.

The couple now has four children, ages seven, five, three and one. “We are grateful that we can do something we love, in a place that we love,” says Rebecca. “We’ll be doing this for a long time to come.”

John Montfort Jones: Sky’s the Limit
John Montfort Jones shies away from being labeled a photographer, although his beautiful Delta sunset landscape photographs are getting noticed. “I grew up seeing those landscapes, and I particularly like the sunsets,” says the 29 year old. After working for Boy Scouts of America, Jones is settling into his new position as marketing director for The Delta Group. But at the end of the day, he scouts new locations for photographs. “About a year ago,” says Jones, “I started snapping photos of sunsets with my iPhone and posting them on facebook. When my friends kept calling requesting prints of my photos, I knew I was on to something.”

Jones created a website, flatoutdelta.com, his hobby organically growing into a nice sideline business. Amazingly, Jones has never had a photography class. “I know anyone can pull over on the side of the road and snap a photo with their phone. What I do differently is that I carefully scout locations, and then I set up and take about 100 or so pictures over an hour and a half period. Then I go back and look at all the photos, and usually, only two or three will be what I really want.” And although he has a new Nikon digital camera, 90 percent or more of the photos Jones has on his site are taken with his iPhone, what’s now called “iPhonography,” and encourages folks to give it a try. “It’s just opening your eyes to the beauty that surrounds you daily. The Delta is the ideal location for this kind of photography.”

Haley Farris: Wheels Turning
Always a creative spirit, Haley Farris, 33, created events for Viking Hospitality for several years before going to work as a designer at Malouf Furniture and Design in Greenwood. Farris began making pottery as a hobby, but in fall 2009, she started her own pottery line called Farris Wheel Pottery. “I’m a Delta-bred girl, and most folks here have collections of McCartys or Peter’s Pottery. My pottery is designed to blend with both of those lines. I call it ‘rustic chic,’ using browns and light blue-greens, but I incorporate glass into mine and give it a dressier feel.” Broken wine bottles and other glass are fused into the pottery, adding texture and dimension.

Pottery isn’t all Farris creates. “I started painting about a year and a half ago, which I really enjoy.” Much of her work is done by commission for the rooms she’s decorating. Farris paints with cool colors, like blues, whites and gold. “I also enjoy texture, and working with mixed media. My work is mostly abstract, and I draw my inspiration from my Delta roots with sunsets, cotton fields and trees.” She adds a high gloss resin to the top of each painting. “It looks like glass, or that it’s still wet. I really love the effect.” On occasion, a client may commission her to do a painting with lots of color. “That’s no problem,” she says, “I just change out the playlist on my iPod!”

Farris creates her pottery in a studio in downtown Greenwood. “I love it there, because I’m right in the middle of everything.” Her painting, however, is done primarily on the back porch of her home. She’s been busy creating artwork and pottery for holiday markets and blogging at www.farriswheelinc.blogspot.com.

Katie Byrd: Color on Canvas
Katie Virden Byrd followed her art muse from an early age, and went on to get her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in art education from Delta State University. Today, the 34 year old lives in Cleveland and teaches art at Park Elementary and to high schoolers at East Side. In her spare time, she paints animals, figures, and incorporates collage into her work. “My style is very schizophrenic,” she laughs. “It’s eclectic and each piece is different. I’d call it abstract, but not too off-the-wall.” The consistent thread in her artwork is color. “I’ve always been drawn to bright color, and I use lots of vivid color in my work.”
A board member of Delta Arts Alliance and a member of Delta Artists Association, Byrd has exhibited her work in various locations throughout the Delta including Cleveland, Leland, Greenville, Mississippi and Lake Village, Arkansas. Earlier this year, Byrd was one of three female artists from Greenville to be part of the Daughters of the Delta exhibition at the Roger D. Malkin Gallery.

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