Southern Collectors of the Past, Present, and Future: My Trip to Atlanta
by Kate Nixon
The art culture in the city of Atlanta is so rich and diverse – a long visual history of cultural differences and civil rights is shown in many venues and publications spread throughout the city limits. While coming up with new faces and influences every day, the city does pay tribute to the art movements of the past. During a recent trip, I found myself unexpectedly researching the life of a beloved southern collector, in an interesting conversation about arts and crafts, and a found connection back to my town of Asheville, North Carolina.
I found myself in Georgia last weekend, visiting family in Alpharetta. On the last day of my mini vacation, after enjoying a crisp glass of iced tea on my aunt’s gorgeous back deck on a warm Friday morning, it was decided that my mother, my aunt, and I would go explore Atlanta. An hour later after driving around admiring the architecture of the grand southern homes of the past and the modern day, these three ladies decided to lunch at a southern institution – Mary Mac’s Tea Room. Hailed as “Atlanta’s Dining Room,” the space – with multiple themed rooms – is warm, inviting, and the scent emanating from the kitchen is a welcome olfactory experience. We were seated in the Atlanta room, a warm tan room already filled with locals and tourists, business attire and street clothes – a melting pot of folks, salivating for comfort food.
As we were being seated, a framed news article caught my eye. Treasures of an Adventurer and Collector Seeks a New Setting for her Gems, I read the titles to myself and as our table waited for savory and buttery roll perfection, I couldn’t help but be intrigued about this mystery collector. After lunch, I took a few minutes to read the framed article and found in its subject a southern treasure. Her name was Dorothy McClatchey – and she along with her photographer/attorney husband Devereaux – traveled the world, hiked mountains, practiced Yoga for 30 years, and amassed a collection of more than 300 antique and contemporary ornaments, textiles, and jewelry. So many pieces of jewelry: it turns out McClatchey was quite partial to gems. The collection now finds itself in the Fernbank Museum of Natural History, featured as its exhibit Reflections of Culture and the article above in particular referred to a past exhibit entitled “To Follow the Dream: The Jewelry of Dorothy Methvin McClatchey” at the Gwinnett Fine Arts Center.
Upon reading a little more into the article, she had an affinity for frog pins, rings, and figurines as the frog was a recurring symbol of immortality in several cultures and that she had “come to feel that everything is connected.” She would climb mountains in Nepal and walk the shores of New Guinea, she’d recruit a local Nepalese sherpa to help her find unusual items. The article didn’t mention anything about Arts & Crafts pieces specifically, but without even knowing if she had any, I thought to myself, I’m sure this woman would have several kindred spirits in the Arts & Crafts community. For travel stories alone, I would have gladly sit down to Mary Mac’s tea and southern comfort food with her and just listen.
Continuing on, we make our way to Atlanta’s Miami Circle, an amazing grouping of top notch stores specializing in home and interior design and home to some of the best art galleries in the city. We continue past fine art galleries, antique purveyors, tile specialists, and head straight to Mission Motif – an Arts & Crafts design resource for collectors. Stepping inside, I immediately recognize the Roycroft logo in a beautiful oak frame, the style of William Morris in a blue and white flower mat, a beautiful quartersawn oak table, prints of flowers and feathers – the style flourishes in this space.
I talk with the owner John Benthal for a while about the appeal of the style and if he sees any younger customers here. He tells me about a young married couple coming in to look at a table, and a man and his son coming in to look at a bedframe. Young folks are also interested in the prints and the beautiful frames they come in. After chatting for a while, I get the idea that the Stickley name is starting to be recognizable to my generation – those in their 30s. My generation is without a doubt influenced by price point, but we also trust brands. Since Stickley is an established brand with another generation, we’re beginning to see past Target brand and Ikea furniture to something lasting and durable.
As I’m admiring the table and making another mental reminder to put this table on my wish list, I notice an open card on the tabletop. I recognize the card as a “Lovepop” card, a successful card company, funded and featured on the popular entrepreneurial show “Shark Tank.” The card is gorgeous – Its crimson 3D Japanese Maple tree with fallen leaves – and also selling quickly. Admittedly, the card was on my wish list when I saw them on Shark Tank and long before I learned about the Arts & Crafts Movement. On another note, I tell Benthal and his designer about William Morris designs being featured on a new fashion line for H&M, a popular fashion-retail company. After a google search and seeing the clothes, they thank me for letting them know. For now at least, there seems to be room in people’s minds for both the traditional and the modern as far as home and fashion is concerned.
On the way back out of Miami Circle, we stop by an Antiques Gallery – Foxglove Antiques and Galleries, a high end antiques shop with an Henri’s Bakery in the back. While my mother and aunt peruse the bakery selections, my sight rests on a table with pottery on top of various sizes and colors. Specifically, a cute sage ceramic pot – with two light orange cherries on it.
I turn the pot over looking for a shopmark – I find this instead.
Be it ever so humble, there’s no place like home. I make a mental note to search for Ma Maison Antiques when I get home.
I also look at the price tag. $195. Unfortunately, the hard reality of the price point influence in this younger generation enthusiast strikes again. It is a bit too much for me to spend, especially after my mini vacation. One of these days, I’ll find a treasure of my own.