REIDSVILLE Traveling in South Carolina several years ago, Kathy Davis Melvin when she saw blue bottles hanging in a lot of the trees.
Research revealed that those trees — especially the ones with blue bottles — derived from a Gullah tradition handed down from African-American cultures. The trees kept “evil spirits such as ‘haints’ or ‘wooly boogers’ out of one’s home,” said Melvin, a 1972 graduate of Morehead High School.
“It’s a custom,” she said. “If you put a bottle on a tree upside down, bad spirits are attracted to the colorful bottles and get caught in the bottles. When the wind blows, the bottles ‘moan.’ ”
When Melvin’s husband, Gary, renovated the former home of his grandparents into a studio for Kathy, it became Bottle Tree Studio.
Kathy Melvin initially used to the studio to make canvas floor cloths and table runners.
Two years after retiring from the Rockingham County Mental Health Center in 2009, Melvin held the first arts and crafts show at her studio.
It was so popular, Melvin now holds it each spring and fall.
This year’s fall show, Holiday Spree at the Bottle Tree, will feature a variety of items from more than a dozen artists and craftspeople, including photo cards by Sharon Dietch and woodworking by Tom Ogburn.
A native of Haywood County, Dietch graduated from Reidsville High School 1969.
Her husband, Frank “Butch” Dietch, grew up in Reidsville. However, for the first seven years of their marriage, they lived in South Carolina and Virginia. After returning to Reidsville in the early 1980s, he worked in Guilford County while she stayed home with their son, Colin.
Before Colin started kindergarten, Sharon Dietch became an administrative assistant in the Rockingham Community College president’s office, working for Jerry Owens and then Robert Keys.
Dietch said that when her nephew, now 50, was a baby, she had more photos of him than anyone else did. Over the years, for birthdays and other special occasions, she often framed one of those for a gift — something his children all enjoy.
Several years ago in downtown Reidsville, Dietch “ran into” Reidsville City Hall to see if a tobacco mural she had heard about was in the former post office building. It was one of the murals contracted by the Works Progress Administration to help artists financially during the Depression, Dietch said.
The artists had been asked to depict the lifestyles of citizens in various areas. After hearing about the mural. Dietch wanted to see it. She took a photo of it and was so pleased with how it turned out, she made it into a card.
“People have loved it,” she said, adding that she sells a lot of them.
One of those purchasers was Lane Levan, a fellow show participant from Browns Summit. He refinishes and refashions cigar boxes. Dietch’s post office photo was perfect for one of his boxes. In fact, he has purchased more of the photos because those boxes are so popular.
Dietch will have those photo cards and many others at the art show. She especially likes taking photos of landscapes but gets her greatest enjoyment from photographing animals — especially if she can find them in an unusual pose.
“It is a pleasure to use my camera’s eye to provide someone with a picture of a family member, pet or a memory that they will always treasure,” Dietch said.
Tom Ogburn, a native of Eden, began working with wood when he was about 20. Growing up, his father involved him in various remodeling projects.
After retiring, Tom enrolled in a woodworking class at Rockingham Community College that focused on making fine furniture. However, it was discontinued, and he chose a wood-turning class.
“I had never done that, but I thought ‘What the heck?’ and I fell in love with it.”
Today, Ogburn turns out beautiful pieces from wood he finds on walks or from exotic woods he orders from catalogs. He creates pepper grinders, bowls, vases, candlesticks, lamps, urns, hummingbird nests, wine bottle toppers and even whimsical animals. He also makes mantels, coffee tables and end tables.
Usually, Ogburn gears his products for upcoming holidays such as Halloween and Easter. Right now, he is concentrating on snowmen and Christmas tree ornaments.
Ogburn grew up on Patrick Street in Eden, the son of the late Glenn and Lib Ogburn. Throughout his early years, he built small tables and shoe boxes and helped his father and others with home remodeling projects.
The 1962 graduate of Morehead High School entered Campbell College, graduating with bachelor of arts degree. He then taught school for six years at Holmes Junior High and Drewery Mason High School in Virginia.
His father, an electrical and lighting manufacturing representative, asked his son to join him.
“I did, and I enjoyed it and did it for 40 years,” Ogburn said. He is married to Carol Ellington and they have one son, Kevin, a musician who lives in Nashville, Tenn., with his recent bride, Kristen.
After finishing the RCC course, Ogburn “was hooked” and invested in woodworking machinery, turning his basement into his workshop.
Since then, he has created many pieces. People often stop by his home to buy them for gifts. He enters arts and crafts festivals in Hickory, Sunset Beach and Roanoke, Va. His work also is in numerous shops.
Whenever he sees an interesting piece of wood, he is going to pick it up. Sometimes the wood dictates what he makes, he said.
“You can see the exterior, but when you cut it open, it’s a whole new ball game,” Ogburn said. “God does all the work making that beautiful wood and I just put a shape to it.”