Southern-made gifts for an anytime celebration


Jim Bridgeman, a former air traffic controller, found a new calling as a ceramic artist.

The artist: Bridgeman grew up in Maryland and graduated from Virginia Tech. For most of his career, he worked as an air traffic controller and instructor in Georgia before retiring for health issues. In 2007, unsure of what to do with himself, Bridgeman took a pottery wheel class in Fayette County.

In 2012, he made the shift from traditional wheel-thrown pottery to hand-built pottery using slabs of clay. The method allows him to create the architectural and geometric forms that define his current work.

The goods: Vases, salt and pepper sets and the occasional mug ($25 to $575). The horizontal and vertical vases, often finished with steel nails, are functional but also decorative. The rustic yet refined look of his clay work is often mistaken for wood, Bridgeman said.

Special gifts: Chess sets ($2,125) comprise more than 400 pieces of clay that have been cut, assembled and refined prior to firing in the kiln. Bridgeman, who does not play chess, challenged himself to create a set.

Awards: Chosen as an emerging-artist scholarship recipient for the (2013) 4 Bridges Arts Festival in Chattanooga, Tenn.

Claim to fame: One of his chess sets is in the San Francisco home of a co-founder of a high-profile tech company.

Where to see & buy: On Instagram at bridgeman studios. Also at Artisphere in Greenville, S.C., May 11-13.


Karin Slaton grew up in a family of artists. But it wasn’t until a few years ago that she became one.

The (accidental) artist: Slaton spent most of her career in sales and marketing in Louisville, Ky., where she grew up. Twenty years ago, she moved to Georgia with her husband for his job. She worked as a regional accountant and a corporate trainer in Fayetteville, where the family lived.

On a sister’s getaway weekend in Florida, Slaton was introduced to beads and was bewitched. As her interest grew, Slaton attended bead weaving classes and received training at Arrowmont School of Arts & Crafts (Tenn.). She continues to explore different mediums and techniques, both current and time-honored.

The company: Backstory Designs, based in Fayetteville, officially started in 2016. In her studio, Slaton weaves the smallest precision-cut beads, incorporating semi-precious stones and crystals in her contemporary jewelry designs.

Big break: In 2013, one of her designs earned a “Best of” award from Kalmbach, the publisher of Bead & Button magazine.

What’s popular: Gemstone lariats, in garnet, sapphire and black spinel, that can be worn long, short or as a wrist wrap ($148 to $295).

Other favorites: Geometriks collection, which combines classic shapes with gemstones and crystals ($78 to $210).

Good cause: Slaton donates the profits from her designs to Doctors Without Borders.

Where to buy:


Influenced by nature’s elements, Vicki Love emphasizes texture and movement in her unique leather bags and accessories.

The artist: A Tennessee native, Love attended the University of North Carolina and graduated from the University of Tennessee. She taught high school English in Knoxville, Tenn., before becoming a full-time artist in 1977.

The goods: Handcrafted leather bags ($58 to $468) and large, one-of-a-kind bags ($900 to $1,200). Also vests ($250 to ($550), which feature a lot of movement.

The materials and colors: Deerskin, which is soft yet strong and easy to clean. Bags are adorned with semiprecious stones, bone, glass, fringe and vintage pieces. Popular colors include black, dark chocolate, latte, toasted almond, white, and pastels such as raspberry sorbet, a signature color Love’s tannery developed exclusively for her.

Awards: Many during her 41 years, including “Best of Show,” chosen by Mark Scala, chief curator of the Frist Center for the Visual Arts at the 36th Annual Tennessee Craft Fair. He was truly a mentor, said Love.

Where to

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