Have you ever heard people joke about taking “basket weaving” in college? Well, my brother sort of did. He got his master’s degree in Southern Culture at Ole Miss, and then he became a folklorist. His job is to preserve folk art traditions that aren’t widely practiced anymore, such as pottery and — you guessed it – basket weaving. As a folklorist, he encounters all sorts of interesting people – from gospel singers to blues musicians to outsider artists. Outsider artists are usually self-taught and aren’t part of the art establishment. In many cases, their work illustrates unconventional ideas or elaborate fantasy worlds. Some works are disturbing, while others are downright delightful.
Clyde’s critters fall into the latter category. My brother has been a fan of Clyde Jones for decades now, and one day several years ago, he took my daughter and me to visit his home in Bynum, North Carolina. Clyde, a former mill worker who’s now in his 70s, has been making critters out of log remnants since the early 1980s. He uses a chainsaw to carve all sorts of animals, and then adds plastic flowers, medicine bottles and other cast-off items to give them personality.
Sometimes Clyde leaves them natural in color. Other times he uses house paint in super-saturated colors. My daughter took a fancy to this pink elephant…
…and this polka-dotted horse…and the flying pig behind it.
Clyde’s critters have been exhibited around the world – from the Great Wall of China to the Smithsonian Institution. Despite their huge popularity, Clyde prefers to give his creatures away or auction them off for charity instead of selling them. In fact, when Mikhail Baryshnikov visited in 1991, Jones politely refused to sell him one!
This kind of folk art is not for everybody, but it can add whimsy to virtually any household. I love finding unique art and accents for my clients, and Clyde’s critters fit that bill.