- This time on "Tenessee Crossroads" we visit the Nashville shop of glass artist, Alice Shepherd, we'll travel to Smyrna at a gathering spot called "The Carpe Cafe" and we'll flashback to 1989 with a visit to the white squirrels of Kenton, Tennessee. All that on this edition of "Tennessee Crossroads." I'm Joe Elmore, good to see you. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts. That's a quote attributed to Greek philosopher, Aristotle. It also could describe the works of Nashville native, Alice Shepherd. Now Alice, who has a degree in philosophy, combines engine parts with kiln-fired glass to create a medium she calls artwork cubed. Well, we spent part of the day with her in a shop she happily shares with a motorcycle. - [Alice] I've been making things my whole life out of just whatever I could find, basically, and if something I thought looked cool or pretty, then I would try to do something with it, particularly if no one wanted it or if it was gonna be thrown away. - [Joe] These days, Alice Shephard is a 3D mixed media artist. She combines kiln-formed glass with industrial metal for her one of a kind works. Some to beautify walls, others to decorate tables. It's a process that's as much about science as it is art. - You have to know about the elements in the glass. You have to know about coefficient of expansion and viscosity and a lot of things that make people's eyes glaze over, but for me, that's what I find challenging and fascinating. Love these together. - She was making industrial metal sculptures before she fell in love with glass, but after that, the self-taught artist was off to a new adventure. According to Alice, this is where her obsession with glass all began. It's a piece of slag from the old Ford glass plant. Obviously, she's come a long way since. - So I decided to get a kiln and I didn't want to abandon the thing that I loved which was using industrial parts and so I decided to try to combine them and it's been a real challenge 'cause you can't put those things inside a kiln. A lot of people in this field refer to themselves as fusers and I don't because the kiln is just another tool. It's an important one, I can't do anything without it, but I use a number of techniques including fusing, draping, slumping, casting, melting. - [Joe] After donning a safety mask, Alice taps powdered glass onto a plate, one that she's covered with tiny lock washers. After removing the washers with a magnet, it's time for the next big step. - I am gonna take this piece and I'm gonna put it in the kiln and I'm gonna fire it and it's gonna look like that piece that's behind you over there. - [Joe] It requires a minimum of 12 hours to fire glass, with multiple settings involved. Safe to say a computerized controller is a lifesaver. - So the controller I program to tell the elements in the kiln when to kick on and when to kick off, because glass has to be brought up to a certain temperature in certain stages and held and brought up and held and brought up and held and then when it comes down, it has to be held, and that's called a kneeling. - [Joe] One of her favorite techniques of manipulating glass is a process called faux-weaving. - Those are strips of glass that I have cut, sometimes I alter the glass prior to it to suit me and then I cut it and I will stack it four layers high in a particular manor so that when it is melted together it appears to be woven and what I like about that is it's more organic in form and the colors overlap and make new colors. - [Joe] And the metal pieces, well, she has an endless supply thanks to husband, Ron, who's an industrial parts salesman. - They write off things that either were broken or ordered and not made exactly correctly and they're very specific pieces so they just can't be used and if they're small enough, I can't use anything too large, but if they're small enough, then I can find ways to incorporate those. - [Joe] So let me get this straight. Some husbands bring home flowers, yours brings home machine parts. - Sprockets! - [Joe] Sprockets. - He'll bring home a box of broken pressure gages and sprockets and yeah, chain. And that sorta thing. - And that's what you want. - It is. It needs a nice warm bath before hand. - [Joe] To give shape to a sheet of flat glass, Alice often employs one of many fireproof molds from her toolbox. - And it will be fused into a flat shape. It'll be balanced on here again and put back in to bring up to a lower temperature until it takes on the curve of this mold. - [Joe] The art of blending kiln-fired glass and other materials to create works like these is not for everyone. It takes a special talent, a good bit of science and a whole lot of determination. In other words, an extraordinary artist like Alice Shepherd. - I decided to be a motorcycle rider. I took a class, I learned, I was afraid. You know, I went through all of those stages. With the glass, I just sorta jumped in and then the glass sorta took over. So the glass kind of obsessed me, in a way. - Well that was a fun kinda story. Well, I'm joined once again by Will Pedigo, as we celebrate "Tennessee Crossroads" and ask for your support of this show and everything you love from Nashville Public Television. - That's right. We're here at week two of our campaign to keep "Crossroads" traveling in 2020 and we need you to make it happen. As a reminder, if you can get us to 350 donations at any level, we'll keep "Crossroads" on the air, during NPT's March pledge drive. We're off to a good start but we have a ways to go to hit our goal of 350 contributions, but I know we can get to it there with your support. This is the time for you to put a value on your love for "Tennessee Crossroads" and help Joe and the crew get out to the next batch of Tennessee's best places to experience the culture of our great state. Call the number on your screen or pledge online anytime at TennesseeCrossroads.org and help us reach our goal. - We know that we have the best fans and the most loyal viewers and we're proud to bring you "Tennessee Crossroads" each week, which has been a staple of Nashville Public Television now for more than 30 years and have no doubts that we can get to that goal of 350 contributions but we need to hear from you. Call the number on your screen or, like Will said, get in touch with us online at TennesseeCrossroads.org/donate to pitch in and while you're there, check out the ways we have to say thank you for your pledge of support. - We do have some great ways to say thanks for your support, a super comfortable "Tennessee Crossroads" shirt. It's totally soft and comfortable and hats and a cool "Crossroads" pint glass. All great ways to remind you, your friends and family, that you're a "Crossroads" fan and you make "Tennessee Crossroads" happen for all of our viewers. - Plus, every contribution at any amount will also get you a "Tennessee Crossroads" sticker so you can hit the road and show fellow travelers that you are part of the "Crossroads" crew that makes it all happen. - Help us get to that goal of 350 supporters, be a part of the "Crossroads" team by calling the number on your screen or pitching at TennesseeCrossroads.org/donate. Now Joe, can you share all the ways that we have to say thanks for folks contributing to Nashville Public Television? - Absolutely, I sure will. You can help keep "Crossroads" traveling with a financial gift that's just right for you. Donate at any amount and you'll receive a "Tennessee Crossroads" official travel sticker. At $60 a year or $5 a month, we'll thank you with this brand new "Tennessee Crossroads" baseball cap. At a $72 level or $6 per month, you can show your support and keep Crossroads traveling with this polyester blend short sleeve t-shirt. A new way we have of saying thanks for an $84 annual gift or a $7 per month is this 16 ounce glass tumbler with the "Crossroads" logo. You can choose both the "Tennessee Crossroads" t-shirt and the pint glass for an annual gift of $144, that's $12 monthly or you don't have to choose at all. You can get all three of our "Tennessee Crossroads" thank you gifts at the $204 level or $17 a month. - You know Joe, I always like to take a little of this time to talk to you about your experiences over the years with the show. - Well, there've been a few of them. - What do you enjoy about sort of hosting the show? - Well, more than anything else, I enjoy getting out there on the two lane highways and so forth of Tennessee and finding new stories and bringing them home to the folks and, you know, there's a story in every household in Tennessee, in every business, in every artist's studio and we'll never run out of good people and good places and good things to cover and, you know, whether it's a restaurant or a craft shop or whatever, it's the people behind the stories that makes the story what it is. - Yeah, and that's one of the things that I enjoy about the show is that you do to some place maybe to get a meal and you wanna try something, but you don't always think about the people behind it. You know, the passion that's behind it, the stories that are behind it and that's really what you get from "Crossroads." - I think so and I think, maybe our viewers maybe will appreciate more what goes on behind the scenes of any place they visit, whether it's a museum or a great restaurant as we mentioned or whatever. And it's about time for you to get out there do another story. - No, I'd love to. Well, I tell you what, you know, you can ask us a question for Joe and there's lots of ways to do it. One of the easiest is to go onto our Facebook page. You can find at TNCrossroads and then maybe we can include your question next week. - Yeah! - We definitely wanna hear from you. By the way, "Tennessee Crossroads" Facebook page has almost 30,000 followers. - Wow, that's pretty good. - Surely, we can get 350 of y'all to pitch in and you know, one other thing that we tried last year that we're gonna do again, at the end of our "Keep Crossroads Traveling" campaign, on Sunday, February 16th at the Ranch Tap Room of Jackaloop Brewing Company, Jackalope Brewing Company, Joe and I, as well as some of the hosts from "Volunteer Gardner" and friends of NPT will be there between noon and 3 p.m. - Yeah, it's gonna be fun. Again, Jackalope Brewing Company is hosting an NPT day at The Ranch Tap Room and let the folks at the door know you're here to support "Tennessee Crossroads" and 20% of your purchases will go to the station that brings you "Crossroads" and so much more. But before we get to February 16th, we're asking you now to support Nashville Public Television and help keep "Crossroads" traveling in 2020. Call the number on your screen or pledge online at TennesseeCrossroads.org/donate. We're gonna make that goal of 350 contributions at any level and if we do we're gonna keep "Tennessee Crossroads" on the air throughout March while they're having the membership drives. - That's great and you know and another great reason to support your public television station is through the added member benefit of Passport. Passport grants deeper online access to PBS shows, including "Tennessee Crossroads." Normally "Crossroads" episodes are only available online for one year from broadcast but with Passport, you'll have online access to all of the stories, all of the episodes of "Tennessee Crossroads" archived at TennesseeCrossroads.org. So any pledge over $60 a year or just $5 a month gets you that added PBS Passport member benefit. - Well, I hope you'll take this moment to make a pledge and help us reach that 350 mark of donations to keep "Crossroads" traveling throughout the year. Call the number on your screen or pledge online, TennesseeCrossroads.org/donate. - You know, and this is that go point. We're halfway there. We really wanna hear from you. Help us get to that goal of 350 contributions. Again, any level of support will help get us there, and there's still time for you to call, but it looks like it's about time for us to head out on the road again. Joe, where are we heading next? - Well, you can find wonderful works of art when you go to the museum, of course, but what's wrong with bringing the works of art to where you are, say a coffee shop or restaurant? Well, that's the plan at a cafe in Smyrna, specifically designed to surround you with works of local artists. Here's Rob Wilds with at a place called the Carpe Cafe. - [Rob] It's lunchtime in Smyrna and it's busy at the Carpe Cafe, where as you might expect, you can get a good cup of coffee. - If we were gonna call ourselves seize the coffee, we figured we'd better make a pretty decent cup of coffee. Since the time we started, we investigated small batch roasters. We wanted to stay local as much as possible. - [Rob] Ron Alley is the man who came up with the idea for the Carpe Cafe though his ideas just keep on morphing. - We thought we were gonna be a cafe that sold a little bit of food, and it turns out that we're a restaurant that sells less coffee than we do food. So all local, made on the premises baked goods. Things made to order, sandwiches, soups, salads so light fare. - [Rob] Mostly light but there are some exceptions. - [Ron] We have one of the best cinnamon rolls in town. They're all made fresh every day. Next to that is the cinnamon roll bread pudding with a bourbon sauce, so that is fabulous. - [Rob] The menu changes and expands but the mission stays the same. You see, Ron heads up a group called "Carpe Artista," seize the artists! - [Ron] Not in the sense of rough them up but capture their attention, their energy, the power of the art to make a difference in the world. - [Rob] And the world starts here at the cafe where you're interacting with artists and their work, whether you know it or not. Often, musicians come by to play. Beau Tackett is a professional guitar player, who's used to playing country music in front of huge crowds so being at the cafe really is like playtime for him. - I love the atmosphere, the vibe. I love it that I can just sit here and kinda just play something in the corner and nobody care sometimes. Sometimes they do, sometimes they don't and that's okay, you know? I just wanna play something pretty, kinda background music. It gives me a chance to get outta the house and play some of the stuff that practice in my bedroom, you know? - [Rob] Good for the artist, good for people who get to hear him and interaction between them, just what Ron wants from the cafe. - [Ron] It is to create a connecting point for our students to connect with community and trying to create positive culture for our local community here. - [Rob] The cafe planted the artistic flag in an area of Smyrna that had been overshadowed a bit. - [Ron] This is a historic zone for the town of Smyrna. It's a small area and it was primarily overlooked and left behind, and one of our directives with Carpe Artista is to look for overlooked and left behind older areas of a town and infuse it with the arts and work on bringing it back to life. - [Rob] Most people who come here aren't aware of the grand plan. They just like the place for what it is. Morgan Keith and Adriana Carter came here because it was a convenient place to work on a school project. They got a lot more than they bargained for. - It's great. It's really nice. The food's really good and it's very friendly staff. It's very kinda homey feeling. It was really nice, great atmosphere. - I love it. I love it. I may drive the 45 minutes from my house to come here often. I may, yeah. I love it. It's very small, very quaint. It's a fun place to be. - Along with providing a place for artists to display their work and for them to interact with the town's people, the cafe also provides a little money for those people who'd like to explore their artistic side through some classes. - That alpaca is very unruly. - [Female] Yes, it is. - [Rob] Whether it's a group of ladies learning a bit about wool. - [Instructor] You wanna do your smaller work, your detail with a single needle. - [Rob] Or someone like Anna Preil who came for lessons on how to refine her considerable young talent. - Ms. Larissa has been a great teacher. She really helps me do what I want to do but then also pushes me to do other things as well. - [Rob] Things, for instance, that can go on display at Carpe Cafe along with all the other works by local artists. - I like that people get to see it and enjoy it and it's not just secluded at home and it's so people can actually see and enjoy it so that makes me happy. - [Rob] Now while you're here, don't forget this is a cafe. - [Ron] Get a great sandwich and a cinnamon roll and a great latte. Matter of fact, one of our signature sandwiches is called Smokey's Chicken Sandwich and it's made with a signature barbecue sauce that's just the right amount of spices on it and so that's a great little sandwich. - [Rob] But be sure you also get a large side order of local creativity when you visit the Carpe Cafe in Smyrna. - You know, I'm amazed at the positive response we've had to some of our occasional flashback stories and we've dusted one off from 1989 for you to see now. It's all about the time Al Voecks took a trip to Kenton, home of the legendary white squirrels of Tennessee. - This is Kenton, Tennessee. Now Kenton is like any other small West Tennessee town. As you drive in on Highway 45, the terrain is typically West Tennessee but there are two distinct differences about Kenton. Now number one, the Gibson Obion County Line runs through the middle of town. Right now, we are one block inside Obion County. The other thing is that there are two distinctively white things in Kenton. Now number one is cotton. Cotton, of course, is grown nearby but the other half of the white distinction is that Kenton is the Tennessee home of the white squirrel. Damon Cross is one of the many who daily provides food for the squirrels. He is also the mayor of Kenton and while most of his time is spent governing, he is always ready with the answer when asked, "Where did they come from?" - Well according to what I could find, and I relate this story to this old gentleman that I knew that lived up here and he said when he was a little boy, one evening, it was kinda raining and cold and there was a caravan of Gypsies came down this trail from towards Yorkville and they stopped at his daddy's house. He was about seven years old. And the old Gypsy leader asked him if they could stay all night in his barn, he had a big barn there, and he told them they could. They were covered wagons. He said the next morning when they got ready to leave, the old Gypsy man told him, said, "We haven't got any money to pay you "for the night's lodging, "but I do have something I wanna give you." And said he turned back the flap on that covered wagon and it was more or less a menagerie of small animal cages in this covered wagon. And he took this little cage out and it had two white squirrels in it. And he said, now that was the beginning of the white squirrels. And according to my calculation, that would've been close to 120 years ago. - [Al] The squirrels have stayed and through the years, they have driven off their gray, red and fox type relatives. They are protected by city ordinance and they seem to know they have a pretty good thing going. But why do they stay in Kenton? - Well because of abundance of food. They have lots of oak trees and some of them are white oaks with the great big acorns and then are lots of walnuts and pecans and hazelnuts. - [Al] But there is food in other places in Tennessee. Why do they stay in Kenton? - Well- - You don't - I'll tell ya. - see them anywhere else. - [Damon] This is their locale, evidently, where they started from and you don't see, you'll see them out in, out of perimeter two or three miles out in the woods sometimes, you'll see them but normally this is home to them. - [Al] Do the people around here kinda take to them? - [Damon] A majority of people, I'd say 99% of the people like them. - [Al] One who really likes them is Mrs. Birdie Freeman but she's a little different from the other residents who enjoy the squirrels in the wild. For the past couple of years, Birdie and her husband, Aubrey, have kept Sam as a pet, and a visit to their home shows that Sam has the Freemans pretty well trained. - Mr. Damon Cross called me and asked me if I'd take him and I said no at first. I didn't want him because I have a lot to do and I go away a lot and so, he said, well, he couldn't survive if I didn't take him. I said, "Well, just bring him on in and I'll take him." So that's how we got Sam. - [Al] He's your pet, isn't he. - [Birdie] Yes he is. He's our pride and joy. - [Al] Squirrels are notorious as far as tearing things up. He's got sharp claws, he's got sharp teeth. - [Birdie] Yes. - [Al] I see you've got things covered in your house. Does he do any damage? - [Birdie] Oh yes. Very much so. He'll chew a little on this and chew a little on that but like I said, he means something to us. I have no family here except my husband and sometimes I get real lonesome and when I do, why Sam loves to play and I let Sam out and watch him play. That's the way he likes to play, all over me. I sit down and he'll run and jump on me and play and play and play. - [Al] Are you the only person in Kenton who keeps a pet- - [Birdie] As far as I know, that only one, it's ever been like Sam. We just, well, I mothered him and took care of him day and night until I gave up got big enough and he's on his own still of course. He's the boss around here. And if I make him mad, he fusses at me. Oh Lord, he'll fuss at me. And if Aubrey makes him mad, he'll fuss at him too but still in all he's a lot of joy. There ain't a farm in Texas could buy him. - [Al] Well not every white squirrel in the area gets its belly scratched like Sam, but the rest of the squirrels do enjoy a pretty good life. You have to go a fair distance to see the White Cliffs of Dover. You don't need to go nearly as far to see the white squirrels of Kenton. - Thanks Al. I remember it like it was yesterday. Well, I hope you had a good time on this edition of "Tennessee Crossroads." Spend some time on our website when you get a chance, TennesseeCrossroads.org, follow us on Facebook and, oh of course, join us next time and keep Crossroads traveling.
January 23, 2020
Season 33 | Episode 23
This week on Tennessee Crossroads, visit the Nashville shop of artist, Alice Shepard. Check out the good food and fine art at The Carpe Café in the historic district of Smyrna. And round things out with a trip down memory lane as we revisit the travels of long-time producer, Al Voecks. Brought to you by Nashville Public Television!