NC Museum of History “Southern Impressions” Now Open

southern impressions

Southern Impressions at the NC Museum of History

The eagerly anticipated “Southern Impressions” exhibit at the N.C. Museum of History in Raleigh is now open to the public (free admission).

We got a chance to see the exhibit when it opened, and we were deeply moved and inspired to see the beautiful artwork, the evocative artifacts, and the glittering bottletree which greets visitors upon entering. The bottletree was commissioned by the Museum and built by Hillsborough artist Jeremy Stollings.

Most of all, we loved the multi-layered effect of all the items and artwork together, representing centuries of connections among people, culture, and landscape of the South. As southerners ourselves, we hold these things dear, and love the way the bottletree helps represent the many converging traditions in the South, stretching back through Africa, Europe, and Asia.

We highly recommend visiting this thoughtful and lovely exhibit. The Museum is located at 5 East Edenton Street in Raleigh, and is open Monday through Saturday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sundays noon to 5 p.m.

bottle tree with blue bottles at the NC Museum of History

Bottletree artist Jeremy Stollings places one last bottle on his organically inspired tree, “Rusted Roots.”

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Bottletree to be featured in new exhibit opening Friday, Dec 11, at the NC Museum of History

"Rusted Roots" bottle tree by Jeremy Stollings

“Rusted Roots” bottle tree by Jeremy Stollings

In October we wrote about our field trip to the Ironwood Crafts workshop in Hillsborough, NC, where we dropped in on artist Jeremy Stollings working on his bottletree commissioned for the N.C. Museum of History’s upcoming exhibit, “Southern Impressions.”

Now, we are delighted to announce that the free exhibit will be opening this Friday, December 11.

The exhibit will feature paintings from the James-Farmer Collection which explore the diverse southern experience through people and landscape. The paintings will be complemented by southern artifacts including quilts, baskets, pottery, musical instruments, and yes – a bottletree!

From the Museum’s announcement:

“The variety of paintings by native-born and visiting artists captures their unique reflections of the South from 1820 through 1950,” says Michael Ausbon, Associate Curator of Decorative Arts. “The artists convey the beauty — and the harsh realities — of the region’s history.”

Artists with works featured in Southern Impressions range from Sarah Miriam Peale, of the noted Peale family of painters, to Eugene Healan Thomason, who is recognized as the “Ashcan Artist of Appalachia.” Ashcan artists portrayed gritty realism in the early-20th-century American experience.

Greeting exhibit visitors will be an eye-catching, organically inspired “bottle tree” made by Durham metal artist Jeremy Stollings. The southern tradition of placing bottles on tree limbs near a home’s entrance reaches back to central African traditions and to superstitious Europeans who believed that evil spirits roaming at night could be captured in empty glass bottles.

Congratulations to Jeremy for this great honor! We can’t wait to see Rusted Roots in its new home in Raleigh! For lots more photos of the design and sculpting process of the tree, you can visit the Ironwood Crafts Facebook page.

The N.C. Museum of History is located at 5 E. Edenton Street in downtown Raleigh. Hours are Monday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday, noon to 5 p.m. For information about the N.C. Museum of History, a Smithsonian-affiliated museum, call 919-807-7900 or access

Painting by Eugene Healan Thomason. Loan from James-Farmer collection

Going Home: “Going Home” Eugene Healan Thomason (1895-1972) of South Carolina. Thomason is recognized as the “Ashcan Artist of Appalachia.” Ashcan artists portrayed gritty realism in the early-20th-century American experience. Painting from the collection of Dr. Everette James and Dr. Nancy Farmer of Chapel Hill. Photo credit: N.C. Museum of History

Painting by Knute Heldner. Loan from James-Farmer collection.

Swamp Scene: “Swamp Scene With Cabin” by Knute Heldner (1886?-1952) of Sweden. Heldner immigrated to the United States in 1902 and received national and international recognition for his southern landscapes and for his sympathetic, emotion-filled portrayals of rural southern life. Painting from the collection of Dr. Everette James and Dr. Nancy Farmer of Chapel Hill. Photo credit: N.C. Museum of History


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There are two ways of spreading light…

“There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it.” — Edith Wharton, American Novelist and short-story writer, 1862-1937

edith wharton candle quote


For some reason this makes me think of bottletrees.


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Bottletree Field Trip to Ironwood Crafts Workshop

Yesterday we were so excited to visit sculptor Jeremy Stollings of Ironwood Crafts at his workshop in Hillsborough, NC.  We got a sneak preview of Stollings’s newest project, a commissioned piece for an upcoming exhibit at the NC Museum of History in Raleigh.

The piece to be displayed at the Museum is a tall, airy bottletree made from rolled steel, soaring in twists and turns, with plenty of room for classic blue bottles and maybe even a bird’s nest!



That’s not Jeremy, by the way. 🙂



North Carolina Museum of History presents “Southern Impressions,” opening Dec 11, 2015.

jeremy p2

37 Paintings on loan from the James-Farmer Collection, and museum artifacts

The Museum’s exhibit is called “Southern Impressions: Paintings from the James-Farmer Collection,” opening December 11, 2015.

According to the Museum web site, “this exhibit will explore stories of southern people, culture, and landscape through loaned paintings—from the collection of Dr. Nancy Farmer and Dr. Everette James, of Chapel Hill—and museum artifacts.”

Of course, we’re super excited about the inclusion of a bottletree in the exhibit, helping to represent southern folklife and our varied and rich cultural history.

As one of the tallest trees Stollings has built, this one presented a few challenges, including the fact that, unlike most bottletrees, this one won’t be planted in the ground.

Stollings turned the challenge into an opportunity to give the bottletree something very few have ever had — roots! Welded onto a sturdy base that will provide stability as well as unique design, the tree will be able to stand freely inside the Museum, and possibly be moved to other locations.

Thank you, Jeremy, for the wonderful tour of your workshop. We can’t wait to learn more about the exhibit and see this beautiful bottletree installed in Raleigh!

Check out the Ironwood Crafts Facebook page to see videos of Stollings working on the tree — you can almost see it come to life!




ironwood crafts jeremy stollings bottletree12



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Innovative Design for Wooden Bottletree

Bottletree - St Marys Road 1We recently received these photos of an amazing Hillsborough bottletree from Mr. Robert Crabtree, who built this structure in his backyard, off of St. Mary’s Road. It is 12 feet tall, 8 feet wide, and is made up of 301 bottles!!!

This is one of the most interesting bottletree original designs we’ve seen, as it is not a live tree, and it’s not a welded metal tree.  We love the large scale, and the symmetry, and the colors.

At first it reminded us of a totem pole, and then we thought it also looks a little like a robot that’s been electrified. 🙂  What does it remind you of?

Thanks for sending these pictures in to us! We really appreciate it!

Bottletree - St  Marys Road (2)

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Small Bottletree for Sale at Durham Garden Center

Metal Bottletree for SaleYesterday, we spotted this cute metal bottletree for sale at Durham Garden Center on Hillsborough Road in Durham (near Bennett Place).

It sells for $79.99 before tax, and appears to be about 6 feet tall. Just wanted to share!

Durham Garden Center

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Blue Bottles Sparkle Against Hillsborough’s Winter Wonderland

More enchanting snowy bottletree photos arrived this week! These two were sent in by Ippy Patterson, a neighbor of Jeffery Beam and Stanley Finch, who made this soaring blue bottletree a few years ago.


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