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- This time on Tennessee Crossroads, we'll meet a Nashville trendsetter who's bringing back fashionable hats, then take you to a West Tennessee catfish tradition. We will discover how you can have a party throwing axes, and share the creative journey of a Memphis artist. All on this edition of Tennessee Crossroads. Hi, everybody I'm Joe Elmore, welcome. There was once a time when every well-dressed person wore a hat. Nowadays, hats come in every shape, color, and size, and well, they are often worn more for function than style. Miranda Cohen found a young woman who is bringing back the fashion trend to a whole new generation. - [Miranda] Anna Zeitlin has always considered herself a hat girl. - [Anna] I was always a hat girl growing up, I wore a hat every day to school. And I inherited a lot of my great-grandmother's beautiful hats from the 50s, so I always had fun playing dress up and trying on her hats. - [Miranda] On a family vacation, she realized her childhood fantasies might just turn into something much more. - We had found out there was this really cool local hat shop, and we went in, and I was just so taken with all the details, and all the hand stitching, and just things I hadn't even imagined could go into a hat. And that really inspired me to learn. I had to make one for myself. - [Miranda] For more than a decade, Zeitlin has been making hats. Actually, her proper job title is a milliner. - Millinery, it comes from the city of Milan, which was the center of the hat making world, like, hundreds of years ago. Milliner's the term used to describe a woman's hat maker. So a man's hat maker would just be a hatter, and then a milliner makes women's hats, so I consider myself a milliner. - [Miranda] In her Nashville studio, the artist and fashion designer will hand-make hundreds of hats. From sun hats, painter's hats, Panama hats, and everything in between, she can custom make the perfect accessory. - [Anna] Hats are great because you can wear them no matter what size you wear, they're a great way to change an outfit and add a lot of personal style. I prefer to do casual hats because I want people to wear them every day. I want it to become part of their wardrobe, part of their personality, and how they express themselves to the world. - And due to her years of experience, Anna can make far more than just the beautiful, basic sun hat. She can also make these royal beauties by hand, and she loves to work with color. - [Anna] I love pink, so I do a lot of pink, but yeah, I try to mix it up and change it seasonally. - [Miranda] Hand lovingly sewn into each handmade beauty that leaves her studio is the name of her business, Fanny & June. - [Anna] June is my mother's mother. And I got my love of sewing from her. She was always sewing when I was little, and so I named my business after her and her grandmother, Fanny. - [Miranda] And she still uses some of her grandmother's and great-grandmother's secrets, like hand stitching, vintage hand-carved hat blocks, ironing the old fashioned way, and even using an antique hat stretcher to create the perfect size. Many Fanny & June designs are made from comfortable and breathable, natural material. - [Anna] Different straws from all over the world. The one from Ecuador is my most popular, and it's a very traditional type of straw that's used in Panama hats that were called that because when they were digging the Panama Canal, that's what all the workers wore. Here's another one called sinamay that comes from the fiber of the banana tree. It's woven and can be shaped in all different kinds of shapes, so I use that for more sculptural hats. - [Miranda] After carefully sizing and blocking the hat, then allowing it to dry and form, she will hand stitch and wire the brim, and then she will use handmade flowers, ribbons, and bows to adorn her works of art. But there are certain things she won't use. - [Anna] So I never use fur, I never use leather. I try to do the least harm. So I just try to keep things in line with my personal ethics. - [Miranda] Fanny & June has a website, and a huge following on social media. And sometimes even Anna is surprised to find where her hats turn up. - I sent some hats for a shoot for Southern Living magazine, and they put one on the cover, which I was not expecting at all. You know, you send things out, you don't know if they'll even make the magazine. It was in the car with my mom and I screamed, and she had to pull over so we could both look at the picture. - [Miranda] From ribbons and lace to casual and simple, Zeitlin says hats make a fashion statement all of their own. - Yeah, when I see someone wearing a hat, I think, that woman's got style, and they're sure of themselves, and they knew who they are. - Zeitlin certainly wants to leave her mark on the fashion industry, but she never wants to outgrow her love of being hands-on with every single hat by giving it her personal touch. - [Anna] So I always want to be part of it. I don't want to have a big factory. I don't want to, you know, grow beyond where I can handle it. - [Miranda] A sense of unmistakable style, topped with a flare for the type of fashion she wants to create, and knowing her grandmother still inspires her every day. - [Anna] She had a real attention to detail, and did have an artisan spirit, and I think she would be proud. - Thank you, Miranda. Next, we visit the town of Brunswick, a tiny town just east of Memphis. But you know what? The place draws big crowds on Friday nights, All thanks to a decades-old tradition of tantalizing catfish. They first called it Sulfur Springs, then Shelby Station, before finally Brunswick around the year 1900. It was a once thriving little railroad stop just east of Memphis. Well, over the years, the cotton gin was torn down, along with the train depot. The trains don't stop anyway. Many stores closed, but thanks to Andy MacIntyre, one landmark here in Brunswick remains, along with a tasty Friday night tradition. Let's go. - Come on in! - [Joe] This iteration of the Brunswick Grocery Store was built in 1949. And since then, fried fish on Fridays has been a culinary custom. - As long as I can remember, there was always fish on Fridays here in this building. I remember being 15, 16 years old, coming up here just to get catfish and taking it home for the family. - [Joe] Andy MacIntyre made a homecoming commitment when he bought the quarter landmark, with encouragement from his mother Anne. - [Andy] I've had restaurant experience in the past and different food service, and just management experiences all over. And I really enjoyed the food service side of it, both the service and the actual cooking of the food. Having worked in corporate restaurants and privately owned restaurants in the past, you know, it was just something, something that felt right at the time. So we came in here and put it together, and people seem to like it so far. - [Joe] While Anne supported her son's new adventure, she also found herself immersed in a second career. - I was supposed to be retired, and he was going to open this, which I knew wasn't going to happen. But so I started working every day, and now six days a week. I had my first day off yesterday, which lasted two hours. - [Joe] She still tell you what to do sometimes? - All the time. - [Joe] And do you listen? - Most of the time. - [Joe] Okay. - Most of the time he ends up listening to me. - [Joe] He said that. He wasn't just kidding? - No. - [Joe] The cafe's earned a reputation for its homemade chicken and dumplings, vegetables, burgers, and what else, but authentic Brunswick stew? - [Anne] It's made with pork, chicken, ham, a little bacon. It's got okra, every vegetable you can think of in it. - [Joe] But there was never a doubt what the feature dish would be each and every Friday night. - [Andy] Every time anybody heard that I was doing something in this building, that was the first question I always got. Are you gonna do catfish on Friday? Are you going to have catfish on Friday? And even today, when I tell people this is where my restaurant is, and they're like, oh yeah, the place that you saw always do the catfish! So, I mean, it's just, there's just no way around doing catfish here. It's just tradition. - [Joe] So as the customers start arriving, the kitchen's alive with the sounds and aromas of fried catfish in the making. - [Andy] The secret is in the marinade and in the batter. We marinate our catfish in buttermilk and hot sauce for at least an hour, if not longer. And then it's battered in a cornmeal and flour mixture with our own spices. - [Joe] The catfish might reel in the customers, but another attraction, one that isn't on the menu, is the unique, friendly atmosphere. - [Andy] I think one thing we do really well here, not only besides the catfish, is the atmosphere. We're a family atmosphere. Most of us that work here, either are family, have adopted each other as family, or we've become great friends. And we treat our employees that way, and it's also kind of that way with our customers, to be honest with you. I mean, we've got some customers that are as close as family can be. - [Joe] Andy's aunt makes all the desserts, which customers say run a close second to the fish in popularity. - [Anne] I would never think after eating three pieces of catfish and French fries and white beans, that I could put down a piece of pie, but we usually sell out. My sister does the pies, they're my mom's recipes. - [Joe] Andy has never had second thoughts about coming home to this tiny community, or taking a chance on running a restaurant here. Obviously he had the right motivation, and the right business partner. - She taught me just how to be the person I am in life. And I mean, my dad passed away when I was 13 years old, so it's just been us for a long time now, for almost 20 years now. Yeah, pretty much everything I've learned, I learned from her. - [Anne] When you have good service and good food, you know, people leave here happy and full, and going to go home to take a nap, you know, that pretty much says you did it right. - There seems to be a new craze sweeping the country that might raise a few eyebrows. Just don't raise them too high, because it involves novices hurling sharpened steel blades! Rob Wilds takes us for a walk on the wild side of Nashville to see if he can cut the mustard at AxeVentures. - [Rob] Some employees from Cummins Diesel in Nashville are headed to a business meeting. - Can I get someone else to come up here and sign a waiver for me? - [Rob] This is a gathering where a waiver is simply good business. - Have y'all done ax throwing before? - [Rob] Yes, she said ax throwing! And she should know. Kierstyn Biedenharn is Manager of AxeVentures in Nashville, one of a growing number of ax throwing establishments across the country. - We have a variety of ages that come in, mainly because, you know, we do a lot of minors, so it can be anybody from age eight, up to 40 or 80. You know we've had a grandma come in and do pretty good. But mainly our range stays between 20 to 40. A lot of family, a lot of bachelorette parties, bachelors, they all have this big interest in throwing an ax. - [Rob] For some, it might even be what you could call lumberjack therapy. - [Kierstyn] You know, I've had people come in as couples, and they would throw an ax just to get through an argument. - [Rob] That's a good therapy right there! - Yeah, good couple therapy. - [Rob] For some it's therapeutic. For others, a serious sport. - We have three different games. We have Round Robin, where a player throws five times in a row for three rounds, and at the end, whoever has the highest score wins. We also have a countdown where you can start with 30 points, work your way down to zero. And we also have a rings game, where you have to make into each of the rings. - [Rob] For most though, it's more like... - [Kierstyn] Mainly, that they're just excited. You know, this is a whole new experience for them. Not a lot of people can say on a daily basis that they get to throw an ax. So when they're coming in, they're really excited to throw an ax. - [Rob] Well, how did this happen, this ax throwing thing? Kierstyn says credit the internet and Jason Momoa. - I like beer and throwing tomahawks! - [Kierstyn] He threw an ax, and someone saw the video, and now that's like a big thing. They just want to do what he did. - [Rob] Of course, there's more to throwing an ax than showing up and heaving the thing. - All right, guys, are we ready to get started? - [Rob] This is where Josh Formosa comes in. He's an ex expert. You could call him an axpert! - When it comes to throwing axes, the most important thing is a nice straight throw. As long as that ax is leaving your hand nice and straight, it should be hitting the target nice and straight, and that's going to be the most important thing. And then second most important is going to be just throwing with your whole arm. Most things that you throw, it's natural to throw with just your wrist or your elbow. We would want to get our whole arm involved, make a nice big arch over the top of that shoulder. So this is gonna be our two most important things. - All right, just sling it! Is that, is that what you need to do? Just get all worked up? - So we like to say that it is 80% technique at 20% power. So technique is much more important than power when it comes to throwing axes. As long as it's hitting right, it should be sticking. - [Rob] Now it's my turn. Time to show off my awesome athletic ability. Yeah, great, well, no. That's the way I wish it had turned out. But actually, it was this. Try it? - [Josh] Yeah, go for it. - [Josh] All right, it was a nice straight throw. - I think I took out a lighting fixture! Fortunately, most people who come here are much better students than I am. Like Cassandra Bouchard, who along with friend Kayla Dempsey came all the way from New Hampshire to celebrate their 30th birthdays in Tennessee and decided throwing axes would be one good way to do that. - It's definitely an interesting concept, one that's not heard of up there as far as like, a game goes, like, you know, like a facility that you could do that at. So we thought, why not give it a shot? - [Rob] Well, how is it? - It seems fun. It's quite a challenge though. - [Rob] Is it? - Yeah. - [Rob] Are you getting many in the bullseye up there? - No! - [Rob] Kayla Dempsey knows her way around an ax, but never really thought about throwing one. - No, I've chopped a lot of wood, but never thrown an ax. - [Rob] So you have actual experience with an ax? - Yeah. - [Rob] It's hard work. - It is hard work. - [Rob] Is this hard work or is it kind of fun? - It's fun, yeah. - [Rob] Is it? - A little hard, once you get the technique, but it's hard, it's fun. - [Rob] Those folks from Cummins Diesel, they seem to be getting the hang of ax throwing as part of their team building exercise. Jaromir Zahi is an accountant who looks at the ax thing in almost an analytical way. - Yeah, so it's so interesting. Yeah, you just put all your negativity on the ax and you just throw it. Yeah, I love it! - [Rob] Rosco Mayberry has plenty of experience in juggling figures in his job in the payroll department, but throwing an ax, that's a whole different number. - Just a good way to release testosterone in a controlled environment. - [Rob] Sort of brings out the competitiveness in people, maybe a bit of their wild side. - [Kierstyn] We've actually had company events where we'll say, Verizon comes in, and they throw up all of their competitors, like AT&T and Sprint, T-Mobile, and they'll throw axes at that. You know, it's kind of funny. - [Rob] Yeah, not anybody's picture? - No, of course not! - [Rob] Never? - Never, at least not yet. - [Rob] Makes you think about what you'd put on your bullseye if you take up ax throwing for yourself. - Thanks, Rob. Here at Tennessee Crossroads, we take a lot of journeys across the state to find interesting stories. Ken Wilshire was in Memphis when he met an artist who's on a journey of sorts. One that's taken her to some inspiring destinations for her painting. - Many artists say their works are all part of a journey, a journey full of anticipation, with few, if any planned destinations. So this inspires your art as well? - Oh, absolutely. It's the texture, the light on the plants. - [Ken] Memphis artist Zoe Nadel often begins her days with a journey through her own backyard. It's one of her most precious natural creations. It provides peace and comfort, inspiration and motivation. - [Zoe] The garden became a way for me to channel some of my thoughts into my paintings. My walks back there are very meditative. I look at the color of the light in the morning, the color of the light on a tree at sunset, it's just exquisite. And that all works its way back into my paintings. - [Ken] A lightning-scarred sapling still has life in Zoe's garden. It's another medium for sculpture, and a handful of twigs from an ornamental shrub provide ample materials for her next work of art. Not only did she design her spacious studio, the entire house has her creative touch as well. Some fallen sassafras branches were perfect for window treatments, along with a few goose feathers for a natural Native American look. - [Zoe] You can see here in the house, when a tree, a beautiful sassafras tree died, I made curtain rods out of it. I wanted to remember that tree, it was outside my studio. - [Ken] You might call it recycling, repurposing or reclaiming. Zoe calls it art, and you'll find it throughout her works. Actually her artistic journey began with a class taught by a neighbor. - [Zoe] She decided to get together some housewives and teach in her garage. I didn't go, I was too scared, too shy. And then I saw what my neighbor did, and that really motivated me because I said, Oh, I could, if she can do that, I can do that. And truthfully opened up a tube of paint and my life changed forever. I burned dinner, the laundry didn't get done. I just was totally consumed with it. - [Ken] Working with clay was her first love, then she found something magical about watercolors, which seemed to fascinate her. It led Zoe to the next leg of her artistic travels. - I started out actually with clay, loved working slab construction. I wasn't into the wheel. And then I switched to watercolor, and I was a watercolor painter for at least 20 years. And then out of that, I grew into acrylics, oil, and collage mixed media. - [Ken] These are her works today. It's a multi-step process that results in somewhat imaginative collage creations. - [Zoe] And it started because I would look at a painting I did, and it wasn't working, so I tore it up, and I reassembled it, and I liked reassembling. I think this goes back to being a child who loved doing puzzles. I like to fit things together. So my attitude is if it doesn't work one way, tear it up and try it another way; paint on top of it. So that's how the journey evolved. The next thing I knew, I was doing a lot of collage work and painting my own papers. - [Ken] Of course she recycles the scraps from her collage work. Zoe calls them complicated papers. Even the dried paint on her tabletop pallet becomes art in a wonderfully whimsical way. - [Zoe] So at the end of the day, I would have a lot of color down on my glass table, which is my palette. And next day I would come in, mix it and start scraping it to clean the palette. And then one day I looked down and it wasn't garbage, it was beautiful. I jokingly called them paint poops, and I have a trademark on the paint poops now. - [Ken] And to demonstrate her patience as an art instructor, Zoe invited me to try my hand at the poop palette. You don't scrape it, you just kind of-- - There you go. - Just force it over. - I'd like some lighter in there. I think a little green would work well. - [Zoe] Are you having fun? - [Ken] This is great fun, very therapeutic. She had to take a detour along her picturesque path when she was diagnosed with cancer. But Zoe is a strong person, and art has been a part of her survival therapy, while cancer was so-called critic inside. - And I think that's something we are as adults. We have this perfectionist or the inner critic. Probably the best thing that ever happened to me, it was when I had cancer and in my recovery, learned to tell the inner critic, walk out of the room. - Not only has it worked for Zoe, she even inspired me to sign my very first paint poop. Now, Zoe calls this this recycled materials, and I might call it something different, but I'm going to sign it. - [Zoe] But the story for me, as the painter, It's the journey into the painting. If the story comes out of that, it's up to the viewer. - [Ken] But it's up to Zoe to choose her next direction. And while she says the word destination is not in her vocabulary, it's nice to stop along the way and reflect on just how far she's traveled. - [Zoe] Eleanor Roosevelt says do one thing every day that scares you. I think I do. A great friend and professor that I had said, Zoe, keep surprising yourself. So I do. - All too soon, our time is up and about time to go. However you want to remind you to check in on our website, TennesseeCrossroads.org. You can follow us on Facebook of course. And don't forget to join us next week. I'll see you then.
April 15, 2021
Season 34 | Episode 35
This time on Tennessee Crossroads, Miranda Cohen visits a Nashville hat maker. Joe Elmore samples the catfish at the Brunswick Kitchen. Rob Wilds cuts up at AxeVentures in Nashville. Ken Wilshire meets Memphis artist Zoe Nadel. Presented by Nashville Public Television.