Visual art from vegetables


By Kelsey Gerhardt - [email protected]



Kelsey Gerhardt|Daily News Debra Coleman sculpts clay and paints faces onto dried okra to look like Santa Claus. They are hung as ornaments on a Christmas tree and are for sale at the Cumberland Gap Artist Co-Op.


Ask any artist and they will tell you about the countless different styles, techniques and mediums that are used. Sometimes these include ink and pen or a canvas and brush, but Cumberland Gap resident Debra Coleman uses vegetables, clay and her fingers.

Coleman turns okra and gourds into Santa Claus ornaments and holiday decorations. She starts with okra, fresh from the garden, and lets it dry for several days until it splits a little bit at the seams. Air-dry clay is then applied and shaped to look like a detailed beard and facial features. After letting that dry, it is painted, left to dry again, and displayed in a bag for gifting or selling.

“I like the quirky faces and sometimes the humidity affects how they dry so they might all look a little bit different, but that’s what makes them,” said Coleman.

She also uses upside down light bulbs as a base and paints faces on them, adds a little hat on the silver end and displays them as recycled snowmen.

“Painting, creating things gives me a satisfaction like nothing else does. You know, I can cook a really good meal and I’m proud of it, but when I create something I feel like I’ve really accomplished something. You put your spin on something and it’s how you like it. You don’t have to get anybody’s permission,” said Coleman.

She is a lifelong artist who picked up her abilities from members of her family including her mother who knitted and sewed, her grandmother who sewed, crocheted and tatted, her grandfather who was a woodworker and tied flies for fishing, and her father who rebuilt guns and was a woodworker.

“I was a doodler my whole life and I loved to color while I was growing up. Now, I like the okra because it’s kind of a recycled thing and the gourds are a natural thing and I like that about it. I’ve always done something and when I’d get tired of it, I’d move on to something different,” said Coleman.

Her other hobbies include quilting, knitting, crocheting and experimenting with different forms of art.

She and her husband Johnny have two daughters, Beth and Kelley, and three grandchildren.

Reach Kelsey Gerhardt at 606-302-9093 or on Twitter @kgerhardtmbdn.

Kelsey Gerhardt|Daily News Debra Coleman sculpts clay and paints faces onto dried okra to look like Santa Claus. They are hung as ornaments on a Christmas tree and are for sale at the Cumberland Gap Artist Co-Op.
http://middlesborodailynews.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/web1_okra-santa.jpgKelsey Gerhardt|Daily News Debra Coleman sculpts clay and paints faces onto dried okra to look like Santa Claus. They are hung as ornaments on a Christmas tree and are for sale at the Cumberland Gap Artist Co-Op.

By Kelsey Gerhardt

[email protected]

comments powered by Disqus