Appalachian Country Living Magazine had a chance to catch up with Lori Montgomery, the owner and visionary behind the amazing Fat Raccoon Gallery in Copperhill, TN. Since opening in October 2018, Fat Raccoon has become one of the best galleries featuring local artists in the Copper Basin, let’s dig into why.
Appalachian Country Living– Magazine: Hey Lori- so nice to get together with you and learn a little bit more about you and your lovely gallery. I know you have a cabin in Murphy, NC, where were you located before and what brought you to this area?
Lori Montgomery: We love this area! Our longterm friendships with Murphy and Blue Ridge friends initially drew us here to visit. After multiple visits and day drives from Roswell, GA, we decided this would be where we would like to retire and began looking for our ideal place.
ACLM: I also understand that you are a horticulturist/landscape designer and previously worked with your husband Steve in your successful career together founding Steve Montgomery and Company in Roswell, GA. How does your creative landscape design eye figure into your love of art?
LM: I feel creativity transcends into any area of art you choose to pursue. The use of design and color is key in all forms of artistic endeavors. Initial interest leads to gaining knowledge and skill. Consequently, using those skills leads to proficiency and contentment with your chosen medium.
ACLM: Fat Raccoon Gallery is such an eclectic and unique place. Let us in on the secret of how you built such a cool and hip space to display the art you feature?
LM: I love to visit quirky, off the beaten path stores in new and familiar areas where local art may be for sale. Seeing new types of creative art is very exciting to me. We wanted to offer a space that feels like home for our new friends to shop in. I don’t feel a traditional gallery’s white walls and backgrounds enhance most art because most homes do not have stark white walls and bright lights. We wanted a friendly, inviting space for people to enjoy, feel comfortable and bring their family. We also chose to be deliberate in having room for all visitors to have space to move comfortably and not feel it is too restrictive for strollers, etc.
ACLM: You have so many different styles and types of art in your gallery. Everything from pottery and paintings, to jewelry, ornaments, small sculptures and photography. (change or add here). What is your selection process? What inspires you to include one artist over another?
LM: Our selection process begins with determining that a new artist’s style does not duplicate any other artist who is already showing their work in Fat Raccoon Gallery. We reserve the right to determine which pieces we feel have a wider appeal to our buying clients based on what has sold and according to available space. It is appealing to many visitors that we offer smaller sized original art pieces that can be easily carried with them as opposed to requiring shipping. We are family friendly and do not accept intentionally violent, vulgar or shocking art. We have a simple process for artists applying to be in the gallery that involves screening for many aspects.
ACLM: The revitalization of the Copper Basin area- meaning the twin towns of McCaysville, GA and Copperhill, TN- along with the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway is bringing in more tourism which truly helps our local economy. Additionally, the clear waters of the Toccoa/Ocoee Rivers, our beautiful mountain scenery and the never-ending winding roads bring quite a diversity of visitors. How do you cater to such a wide variety of art lovers?
LM: We have been very blessed to have incredibly gifted artists allow us the opportunity to represent their work.
We offer more refined as well as primitive, whimsical and folk art style paintings. Our pottery is beautiful and unique
for functional and personal use as well as for holidays, special occasion and thank you gifts. We also offer hand
crafted jewelry, stained glass, copper wire trees, photography, wonderful sculptures and other unique art.
ACLM: And what about our full and part-time cabin owners? What does Fat Raccoon have to offer them? I’m thinking home décor, birthday and holiday gifts for family and friends? What else?
LM: Fat Raccoon has helped many of our local home and cabin owners make selections for wedding gifts, thank you gifts, holiday gifts as well as painting and pottery items which fit into their home and style perfectly!
ACLM: I also see that you have recently added local honey to your repertoire? Tell us how that came about? It looks truly delicious.
LM: We live about 12-15 minutes from the gallery on our small farm named Sweet Wildflower Farm. We planted multiple varieties of fruit in the orchard on our property. Our neighbor also has a small farm next door to ours and he is a beekeeper. The bees visit us regularly and pollinate our orchard as well as our grape vines. The honey is very local, unprocessed and delicious!
ACLM: Lori, it has been so much fun chatting with you about Fat Raccoon Gallery. It’s really a gem here in the Copper Basin. Is there anything you’d like to add in closing?
LM: We appreciate that we have been embraced by so many in our community in the Basin as well as surrounding areas. We have pleasantly surprised many people who have visited our store simply for the name Fat Raccoon Gallery. What they have mentioned in person and in comments online are “the gallery is fresh,” “the people are friendly,” “wonderful local art,” and “we will tell people to come.”
For more information:
Fat Raccoon Gallery
121 Ocoee Street
Copperhill, TN 37317
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