A few months ago, I was contacted by a representative from Food Network Magazine and asked to play a role in the April edition. The issue has officially hit the newsstands, so I am finally able to share the details of my involvement.
In celebration of Easter, Food Network Magazine wrote a story that features a decorated Easter egg from all 50 states, and I was given the honor of decorating the Tennessee egg. Naturally, I decided to tap into my husband’s artistic talent to create this unique work of art. (For those who don’t know, Mr. Handsome is a painter.) The two of us had a blast working together on this project.
We chose a banjo to represent the Americana, country, and bluegrass music that Tennessee has helped mold and create. We chose a river to represent the great waterways that flow through Tennessee and set the state apart as a center for industry and trade. We superimposed these images over the Great Smoky Mountains, which represent the beauty of nature that all Tennesseans know and love.
We did several practice runs, some with hard boiled eggs and others with “empty” eggs, and tried a few different designs. (If you poke a hole in both ends of an egg, you can blow the yolk out and be left with just the shell.) We always started with a pencil sketch.
It took a bit of time to find the right medium. We first used artist-grade colored pencils (better quality than the colored pencils used by children) but decided they weren’t quite bold enough.
After spending some time wandering around our local Hobby Lobby, I ended up purchasing a small set of acrylic paints and some tiny, tiny brushes. The brushes have a max of about 10 thin bristles per brush–so small that they are nearly microscopic!
Of course, we made several mistakes along the way, like attempting to draw or paint on a hard boiled egg that was either too hot, which made the paint run, or too cold, which created condensation. We managed to get paint all over our fingers and dining table. Thankfully, that was before I refinished the table (tutorial coming soon) or else I might have had a small panic attack.
You may remember our trip to Memphis last spring. I shared photos of the Lorraine Motel, iconic glass pyramid, Peabody Duck March, and Memphis Zoo. We returned again this year for a conference, but this time we were only in town for a short 36 hours, rather than a full weekend. While Mr. Handsome attended the conference, I toured the city, as I did last year.
The highlight was visiting an Underground Railroad museum called Slave Haven. Located on the outskirts of downtown Memphis, the museum is a house that was once a stop along the Underground Railroad.
The house, known as the Burkle Estate, was built in 1856 for German immigrant Jacob Burkle and his family. As a devout Christian, Jacob Burkle was very much against slavery, so after his home was completed, he decided to use his cellar to house enslaved Africans seeking freedom in Illinois via the Mississippi River.
Located only a few blocks away from the river, the Burkle Estate likely housed a large number of slaves, historians believe. To allow his home to be easily recognized by these guests and as a signal that his home was a safe place for them to stop, Burkle planted magnolia trees in his front yard. Magnolias are not native to the area, making these the oldest magnolias in Memphis.
Harboring fugitive slaves was a serious crime, so Burkle kept no written records of his actions, and he did everything he could to appear to the public as a “respectable gentleman.” Because he owned a Memphis stockyard, he was wealthy and was expected to own slaves. For that reason, Burkle purchased two slaves–a male and female. He treated them like family and then secretly helped them gain their freedom in Canada. To make it look like they had escaped, he ran a newspaper ad offering a reward for their return.
Members of the Burkle family lived in the home for more than 100 years. Photography was prohibited inside the house, but the cellar where the slaves hid was accessible through small hole in the base of the house.