Chattanooga Pulse Article on Liquidambar Gallery

  • Finding Art Well Off The Beaten Path

by Kevin Hale

August 16, 2017

 

Discovering the Liquidambar Gallery at the Sequatchie Valley Institute

Chattanooga and the Tennessee Valley are known for their natural beauty. Likewise, if you follow the Tennessee River around the base of Signal Mountain, through the winding turns of Suck Creek Road and the Prentice Cooper State Forest, you will find Highway 28 to Cartwright Loop, where off the beaten path you will discover a case in environmentally-conscious living and a newly opened art gallery which draws inspiration from its breathtaking surroundings.

Liquidambar Gallery at the Sequatchie Valley Institute just opened its doors under the direction of Carol Kimmons, whose family has lived on the land since 1971.

“When we moved here, the 350 acres we now own were completely untouched,” says Kimmons. The family soon cleared enough shrubbery and brush to build a rough, temporary house while they built their dream house halfway up the mountain.

Once the family moved into the new house, the old house was lost to fire. They decided to rebuild and add an extension onto their dream house to make room for their extended family, essentially constructing two houses.

Both Kimmons’ mother and her husband Johnny’s mother passed away, which left the houses available for an SVI office, art studios, and the new Liquidambar gallery.

“A visual feast of art is made here in our studios featuring ceramics, flame worked glass, metal ornaments, sculptures, kaleidoscopes, and paintings,” says Kimmons. “I take native leaves, flowers and plants and include them in the pottery I make.”

Kimmons, her son Patrick Ironwood, along with her daughter-in-law Michelle, are some of the main artists featured in the gallery. Visitors can also find special exhibits from local artists and workshops detailing technique and artistic skill development.

It’s hard to talk about Liquidambar Gallery without talking about the Sequatchie Valley Institute. The Institute gained its non-profit status in 1997. It started as a family homestead—sustainably and scientifically designed—then gradually became a learning center for both children and adults in permaculture gardening and greenhouses, natural hand-crafted construction, solar power, forest ecology, food and nutrition, and sustainable forestry.

Marked nature trails for hiking and picnicking and an Arboretum Trail with 100 identified native and domestic trees and shrubs populate the mixed mesophytic forest, from Hick’s Creek up to the sandstone bluffs of the Cumberland Plateau. All of the land is protected forever by the Land Trust for Tennessee.

“Liquidambar Gallery is a natural extension of the work of SVI,” says Kimmons. “Our hand-crafted passive solar structures, built of wood from trees killed by the southern pine beetle, are part of our sustainable forestry program. “

Kimmons was taught sustainable building and farming by her parents, who she calls Tennessee hillbillies. The whole institute is a model for sustainable living. Both Simmons and her husband teach at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. Both teach biology, while she also teaches environmental science.

“Everything they teach is practical,” says former board member J. Barry Wilde. “Even down to the wine and beer making, they have a real back-to-nature approach.”

Ironwood collects glass from around the world and understands the chemical processes to generate color for his kaleidoscopes. He exhibits at both Liquidambar Gallery and his own Nature of Reaction space.

“His sculptures and jewelry are made through a process called electroforming,” says Simmons. You can also get a glimpse of his work on Instagram and Facebook under Nature of Reaction.

Even, Kimmons’ daughter-in-law Michelle, owes a little something to Liquidambar and SVI, depicting root systems and other natural objects in her watercolors and sculptures.

The gallery, surrounded by nature trails, and an arboretum are open mainly on weekends and during SVI activities and events.

So it’s natural to ask, “What does Liquidambar mean?”

Young sweetgum trees initially populated much of the property. They named their first house “Sweetgum” and also several subsequent structures “Sweetgum 2” and “Sweetgum 3”.

The earliest mention of Liquidambar is by Spanish naturalist Francisco Hernández in 1651, where he describes the species as a large tree producing a fragrant gum resembling liquid amber, hence the name Liquidambar.

This name was established as the genus name of the tree by Linnaeus in 1753, again referring to the sweet gum that oozes from the bark, now used as chewing gum by kids.

Sweetgum grows rapidly and is one of the first trees to re-colonize areas that have been cleared or burned. The gum has been used as medicine for sore throats, coughs, diarrhea, and wounds. The autumn leaves develop a variety of flaming brilliant colors, sometimes described as a conflagration.

“Truly this is a magnificent tree to represent the unique art of our gallery,” exclaims Kimmons.

by Kevin Hale

August 16, 2017

Trails and Gallery open this weekend and for the eclipse.

I’ll be firing the kiln this week, so should have even more pottery out next week, some very pretty bloodroot dishes and more hops beer mugs.  They sell fast!  if you want to avoid the eclipse crowds you are welcome to visit.  The native grasses glade, a short hike along the Hemlock Grove Trail, will be a good place to observe the eclipse.  The gallery will be open before and after the eclipse, but not during!  We will be out watching it.

Open today!

You may not see another beautiful cool and clear day like this for a month, so come to the gallery and take an easy nature hike with the kids.  Kaleidoscopes and mugs are here now, along with Michelle’s watercolors and more.

Try Forest Bathing to Reduce your Stress and Improve your Health

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HEALTH NEWS FROM NPR

YOUR HEALTH

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Ninety-nine-point-nine percent of our evolutionary history was spent in natural environments. Our bodies are simply adapted to being in nature. But today we are spending most of our lives indoors – you know it – tethered to our devices. Well, now a practice that started in Japan that’s aimed at reconnecting us with nature is beginning to take off here in the U.S. It is known as forest bathing. As NPR’s Allison Aubrey reports, there’s growing evidence its benefits may be just what the doctor ordered.

ALLISON AUBREY, BYLINE: It turns out there’s actually a certified forest bathing guide right here in Washington, D.C. Her name is Melanie Choukas-Bradley. I met up with her on a lush jungley (ph) island in the Potomac River.

MELANIE CHOUKAS-BRADLEY: I’m totally in love with this island.

AUBREY: It’s just a footbridge away from the busyness and noise of the nation’s capital.

CHOUKAS-BRADLEY: This is our challenge here. We’re right under the Reagan National flight path.

AUBREY: As we step on the trail, everything on this island is green and blooming.

CHOUKAS-BRADLEY: So this is the place where we’re really going to begin our forest bathing.

AUBREY: Along the narrow trail, we pass under a canopy of pawpaws, then black walnut trees. And we get a little shower of ripe mulberries.

CHOUKAS-BRADLEY: Aren’t they beautiful just looking up at the black against the green and the red?

AUBREY: Now, given the term forest bathing, I thought we might be taking a dip in the water, so I’ve packed my swimsuit. But it turns out my interpretation was way too literal.

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

AUBREY: Melanie gathers us in a circle and invites us to immerse ourselves in what she calls the pleasures of presence.

CHOUKAS-BRADLEY: If you’d like to close your eyes and just breathe this wonderful cool air, just breathe. Just breathe.

AUBREY: So now I’m beginning to get it. Forest bathing is sort of like a cross between a hike and a meditation class, except there’s no destination. The aim here is to slow down and immerse yourself in the forest, tune into its sights, its smells, its textures.

CHOUKAS-BRADLEY: And when you feel ready, open your eyes and imagine you’re seeing the world for the very first time.

AUBREY: Suddenly the green looks a lot greener, and I start to see things I hadn’t noticed before – the flutter of birds, the ripple of the water, the swaying of the trees.

CHOUKAS-BRADLEY: I can hear some summer insects and a bird up in a tree nearby.

AUBREY: As we walk on, Melanie stops us at a bush. I would have just passed by.

CHOUKAS-BRADLEY: If you want to just come scratch this twig of this spice bush and smell it, it’s very yummy.

AUBREY: To me, it smells like cinnamon or bay leaf. It’s warm and earthy.

CHOUKAS-BRADLEY: Isn’t that nice?

AUBREY: Wow.

CHOUKAS-BRADLEY: Yeah.

AUBREY: There’s a whole world of fragrance in the forest. Think of the smell of pine and cedar trees.

CHOUKAS-BRADLEY: There’s been a lot of research about the healthy volatile compounds that trees release and how good they are for our own health.

AUBREY: Now I should point out that when my editors asked me to do a story about forest bathing, I did a little eye roll. It sounded so hokey to me. But it’s turned out to be a pretty powerful experience, and I wanted to know if it’s really doing something good for my health.

PHILIP BARR: As a matter of fact, medical researchers in Japan have specifically studied forest bathing and demonstrated several benefits to our health.

AUBREY: That’s Philip Barr. He’s the lead physician at the integrative medicine center at Duke University. He reviewed the studies for us, and he says they document a range of effects.

BARR: From lowering blood pressure and heart rate, lowering stress hormones, raising immunity and in general allowing the whole body to be in a more relaxed, healing state.

AUBREY: Barr says he thinks a lot of his patients could benefit from forest bathing, especially people dealing with a lot of stress.

BARR: Absolutely forest bathing could be considered a form of medicine.

AUBREY: And as I just discovered, the National Park Service has already rolled out its park prescription program. The aim is to help health care providers get their patients out into nature.

GREENE: Allison Aubrey’s voice there. She was reporting. And she is fresh off her forest bathing experience in our studios. Hey, Allison.

AUBREY: (Laughter) Oh, still feeling so relaxed. Hey there, David.

GREENE: Still feeling mellow. You sound mellow. Am I allowed to be depressed that someone has to fill out a…

AUBREY: (Laughter).

GREENE: …Prescription to go out into nature? I mean is that where we’ve come?

AUBREY: I hear you, David. I think Henry David Thoreau might be turning over in his grave (laughter), right?

GREENE: Yeah, I’d say so.

AUBREY: I think it’s this idea that a retreat to nature gives us stillness and calm. It’s age old. We all already know it, right? I think that, as you mentioned in the introduction to the story, we are tethered to our devices. I mean many of us are just so disconnected from the natural world that I think we may need help or a little nudge just to learn how to hang out. I think that’s the point of having a guide in forest bathing. It might be why it’s taking off. You know, just like you have a yoga teacher to do yoga, a guide in the forest can help people slow down enough to really immerse themselves in the natural environment.

GREENE: So but let’s be clear here, Allison. I could actually get forest bathing on my health care plan potentially.

AUBREY: Well, not yet, but the founders of this movement hope that that’s coming. I mean if you think about the toll of stress in our lives – one recent study estimated that workplace stress is linked to about $150 billion in health care costs a year. So if something as simple as being in nature is a good antidote to stress, health care providers might want to think about this.

GREENE: No disrespect to forest bathers, but couldn’t I just go take a walk?

AUBREY: (Laughter) Good question. I mean I think any kind of exercise can help with stress relief. It’s very well-documented. But the Japanese scientists studied this in a really clever way I think. What they did is they had people walk in an urban area in Tokyo for a few hours. And then a week later, they had them walk in the forest. Now, both of these walks required the same amount of physical activity, but what they found is that the forest environment led to more significant drops in stress hormones and blood pressure. And so that kind of gives you a sense of the scope.

GREENE: What else – you did mention I mean speaking about the difference between city and forest – there are these compounds that the trees give off that can really be good for us.

AUBREY: Yeah, you know, it sounds a little wacky, but trees have these essential oils that give off fragrances – so, you know, those cedar and pine smells. And they also have all these other compounds that they release into the air. And when we breathe them in, it turns out there may be some benefit to us as well. I’d say it’s still pretty speculative. But one of the Japanese studies found that just breathing in this forest air compared to what they called blank air actually led to a small decrease in blood pressure on its own.

GREENE: Blank air being like what we’re breathing in right now in an office you’re saying.

AUBREY: That’s what I’m assuming, sort of…

GREENE: Yeah.

AUBREY: …Blank air, office air.

GREENE: Well, sad that we’re both breathing blank air…

AUBREY: (Laughter).

GREENE: …Today. We should get out and do some forest bathing.

AUBREY: Here’s to breathing more forest air and less blank air.

GREENE: There you go. NPR’s Allison Aubrey. Thanks, Allison.

AUBREY: Thanks, David.

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Gallery and Trails Open July 22-23

Yes, we are open!  With all this rain, the forest is green and summer flowers are blooming.  Our tomatoes, 3 sisters garden, and pollination garden are doing well.  Lots of new mugs, now, with a good selection of the hops beer mugs and small tumblers with impressions of spring flowers.  Patrick is at the Southern Highlands Guild show in Asheville, NC, this weekend, but we still have a selection of his kaleidoscopes and pendants in the gallery.  Michelle’s lovely watercolors and oil paintings are waiting to find new homes, so come and see what we have.

Walk the trails, bring the kids.  I’ve been doing physical therapy for improving balance, and I find that the trails are the perfect way to practice.  The best exercise must be a lovely walk on our forest trails.  And, you can learn about the forest, the ecology, and even the history of our mountainside along the way.

Gallery Closed this Weekend, July 15-16

Sorry, we are enjoying the beach in Florida! We will return next weekend, so come see us and enjoy the trails. Lots of new mugs and Patrick’s new work will be on view in the Gallery.

Nature of Reaction is back in the Gallery!

Patrick’s amazing art has returned from the Renaissance to the Gallery,  with lots of new sculptural pieces.  And it’s National Trails Day Saturday!  Come and see Patrick’s art and Carol’s new functional pottery then take a beautiful hike along our nature trails.  See you here!

Hot from the Kiln !

Mugs aplenty, with springtime leaves and flowers, and a set of hops vine beer mugs ready to drink great beer from!IMG_4327  The creek and all the streams are again running and the forest is out of control!  A giant white oak went down during the storm last night, but didn’t fall across the road.  What a beauty, and so sad to see it on the ground.  However, Johnny is checking out the board feet….

Come check out the new items today, the 21st, as we are open till 5 pm.  Bring a jacket if you plan to hike.  See you!

Gallery, Nature Trails, and Arboretum Open May 6-7!

The creek is flowing deep and fast, so you may have to walk across our bridge.  Hemlock Grove Trail follows the creek and is spectacular now.  Carol’s new work is going in the kiln today–we’ll soon see what comes out!  So come on out, 10-5 Central Time.  Don’t leave the kids inside-bring them out to see the green, green forest!