Gathering for GumTree

By M. Scott Morris/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – The Lee County Courthouse square was abuzz with activity Friday.
Artists, food vendors and volunteers busily prepared for today’s opening of the 39th Cellular South GumTree Festival.
Michael Schwade, a 68-year-old sculptor and jeweler from Eureka Springs, Ark., set up his tent under trees on Broadway Street.
He used to make jewelry out of silver, but switched to copper and brass because “I have to be different,” he said.
“My pieces have no intrinsic value,” he said. “I hasten to add that they have artistic value.”
You’ll find an ancient sensibility to his work. He’s spent hours in museums, studying copper and brass artifacts, but he also creates contemporary designs.
“I like to think of my work as timeless,” he said with a smile.
Just a few feet away, Steve Windham has little use for metal, unless it’s in a tool to help make his wooden creations. The 56-year-old Brandon resident makes wooden spoons, strainers and cutting boards.
His offerings include spoons and ladles with slots cut into the handles so they can rest on the edge of a pot.
“I get excited when I come up with an idea for a new spoon,” he said. “That’s pretty bad, isn’t it?”
Windham also carves wood sculptures. One piece holds a collection of wooden balls that resemble eyeballs. It’s hard to resist grabbing one, even though there’s a “Do Not Touch” sign prominently displayed.
“Everybody does it,” he said. “That piece just draws them.”
Down on Court Street, Liz Williams, 49, of Atlanta, was putting her abstract paintings on display.
Festival season takes her up to the Midwest and onto New England then back to the South.
“I do shows in spring, summer and fall, so in the winter, I stay in the studio and work,” she said. “I paint between shows, too.”
She attended last year’s GumTree Festival, and knew she had to return. If you recall, storms hit pretty hard last year.
“The people still came out. They were wearing their mud boots, but they came out,” she said. “Everybody was happy and cheerful. It was great.”
If weather forecasts are to be believed, Williams’ decision to return to Tupelo will be met with sunny skies.
“This weekend is going to wonderful,” she predicted. “It couldn’t be better.”

Contact M. Scott Morris at (662) 678-1589 or scott.morris@djournal.com.

Schedule in today’s NEMS Daily Journal newspaper.