The Canton Flea Market is considered one of the best festivals in the Southeast United States. It began in 1965 when local artists displayed their paintings on the old iron fence surrounding the Greek Revival Courthouse. The flea market attracts artisans nationally to showcase a variety of handcrafted arts and crafts. The event also attracts up to 100,000 visitors. I had heard about this event for years and hoped it would be the perfect place to recharge my inner batteries.
On the morning of the event, I arrived in Canton, which is near the center of Mississippi. The streets were lined with white tents and people were selling their creations from the trunks of their cars.
The center of the market is the Canton Courthouse Square District and is registered on the National Register of Historic Places. There is a sense of history with it’s storied past of gun duels, of the courthouse used as a hospital during the yellow fever epidemic, and of ballot box stuffing, to name just a few of the historic events in Canton.
As I walk around the square viewing the many arts and crafts, I enjoy talking to the artists and taking photos of their creations. I thought I might want to write about my experience one day. Some of their creations included birdhouses made from old boots, graphic maps, stained glass flowers and many other handcrafted objects.
The day was fun and exciting, but got even better when I came upon a booth with metal jewelry. My eyes locked upon a metal heart pendant displayed on a cloth covered mannequin. The Pendant was made from copper wire, which was hammered and textured into the shape of a large heart, and then soldered at the connecting point. It hung on a simple leather cord. There was something about this little “Object de Art.” It touched me on a deeper level than all of the other arts and crafts. I thought it was absolutely beautiful in its’ simplicity. I could feel the spirit of the maker’s message: Love. Plus, the workmanship was beautiful. I can’t believe I would walk away from it, but I did. As I was visiting the neighboring booths, I was compelled to go right back and buy the pendant.
For some reason I was inspired by the heart. It was more than something to wear, it was more than retail therapy, it was pure inspiration. It wasn’t long after getting the heart that I became inspired. I was driving back to Louisiana when I had a flash of a thought: I want to learn metalsmithing. I felt in my heart a passion ignite that day in Canton, Mississippi. I never expected to receive this gift. I am forever grateful for the way that the heart pendant touched my soul. It was on that day that my metalsmithing journey began. From that flash of inspiration, I’ve bought many books and magazines on metalsmithing, have gone to many workshops, and traveled to California and New Mexico to learn from Native American artists.
My goal this year is to make as much jewelry as I am able. I will be creating bracelets, pendants and earrings. I would love for you to follow my journey.
Mary Caroline Garland,
Z Sun Designs