Written by Sherry Lucas | Photographed by Joe Ellis
Tucked in a tiny two-acre wood along the edge of LeFleur East, Wolfe Studio has been a hub of fine art making since its founding in 1946 by Jackson visual arts pioneers Karl and Mildred Nungester Wolfe.
Back then, it was on the outskirts of Jackson. But even as commercial growth gobbled its surroundings, the tranquil setting remained true. Here, city sounds are muffled by tall pines and drowned out by birdsong.
The Wolfes’ daughter, artist Elizabeth “Bebe” Wolfe, and her husband, David Weidemann, took over the studio in 2002, and the production of artful ceramics — once a bread-and-butter sideline — went year-round.
The studio has grown over the years, starting with the hiring of good friend and Wolfe art collector Linda Bartling, who’d already begun to help her mother, Bebe says, and then Wendy Eddleman, the first payroll employee.
Now, about a dozen artists — several full-time and the rest varying degrees of part-time — form a true collective.
“There’s a great sharing of inspiration that goes around, and that’s the true collective spirit of the place that I value a whole lot,” Bebe Wolfe says.
The studio is in the bunny season now, preparing for Easter and Mother’s Day. Some new birds are also in the works; a smaller pelican and a bittern have already flown in to roost.
Ceramic birds, creatures and nativity sets are all hand-painted, each figure unique, and the studio is now supplying the third generation of collectors.
The doors are open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays.
Wolfe Studio’s patch of woods, blooms and birdsong are as central in its appeal as the small showroom of gaily painted ceramics and fine art paintings and prints.
“It’s central to my sanity, central to my peace of mind,” wrapped in richness and memory, Bebe Wolfe says. “It’s like a little magical place.
“It’s not all manicured and sanitized and tortured to death. And, there’s enough of it, that it’s like a balm for my soul, and I can exist in the middle of it with a similar feeling — that I don’t have to be tortured and manicured and managed.
“I can be allowed to be right here in amongst the rest of nature and be my natural self. And, I think that’s what it’s done for me more than anything.”