Carmen Fleming (1919-1995), a native of the region, started carving in 1937. She is self taught, encouraged initially by her brother, Nolan Beaver, and other family members. “I worked for twelve years, and my [late] husband, Pearlie, worked for L&N and Southern railways...we moved around a lot. At one time we moved twice in one week. I had five children and there were years that I didn’t carve, so I decided to buy a log cabin here which we later traded for the present home place.” Carmen goes on to state that when they built the home she lives in now, she and her children tore the old house down themselves and her husband built fine horse stalls. “Gladys Rogers called me about five years ago and asked if I would carve for the Folk School...I just like to carve.”
Carmen creates exquisite little rabbits, wrens, chickens, and geese with outstretched wings. “Once I carved an old hound on a log with a squirrel in a tree.” She begins carving each day around 5:30 a.m. before her breakfast and divides her time throughout the day between carving, housework, and her beautiful garden. “If you feel guilty when you sit down, you’re probably worked to death.” She continues, “None of my children carve, but I have an eight year old grandson who likes to carve; maybe he’ll be a carver.”
Her favorite wood is buckeye. Her most difficult commission was carving seven hundred donkey napkin rings in cherry and black walnut for the National Democratic Convention held in Atlanta, “I thought I’d never finish it.”
- Transcribed from John C. Campbell Folk School, The Brasstown Carvers (1990),
with text by Bill Biggers, photographs by Werner Kahn and Bill Biggers.
Used with permission of the John C. Campbell Folk School.