Kate Rothra Fleming Volume 38.5 Preview

Kate Rothra Fleming. 
Visions of the Natural World

 

THE BLUE DOVE NECKPIECE of torch-formed soda lime and dichroic glass, hand-fabricated, oxidized sterling silver chain; glass components sewn on with cable, 8 x 5 x 76 centimeters, 2015. Photograph by Robert Diamante.

Kate Rothra Fleming and her husband Frank Fleming first bonded over a Furmont reptile hook. She was surprised to see one in the back of his car, and he was astounded that this quiet, petite redhead knew what it was. She had recently quit her regular job to work full time as an artist, making glass jewelry, and Frank worked in the film industry, where one of his roles was to keep snakes off sets. They quickly recognized a shared passion for nature and natural history. Fleming’s mother, Elizabeth Ogren Rothra, a nature writer, was collaborating on the book On Preserving Tropical Florida (University of Miami Press, 1972) while her daughter, an only child, was young. “I spent my childhood traipsing around with mom and dad going into the remote parts of Florida interviewing the early Florida naturalists, the pioneer naturalists,” including Marjory Stoneman Douglass, a wetlands activist who wrote The Everglades: River of Grass in 1947. Fleming’s father, who taught home-bound children, helped her collect fish on the reef, including sargassum fish that she could feed in her hand by shaking tiny shrimp out of Sargasso weed. She also liked to catch snakes and recalls, “I was fascinated with the beauty of gradient colors and the smooth textures and patterns of the snakes and other reptiles that I would see. One time I found a green grass snake, just the most incredible shade of yellow green!,” adding, “I always let them go unharmed.”

 

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Ashley Callahan is an independent scholar and curator in Athens, Georgia, with a specialty in modern and contemporary American decorative arts. The University of Georgia Press recently published her book Southern Tufts: The Regional Origins and National Craze for Chenille Fashion. She met with Kate Rothra Fleming at the Atlanta Contemporary Jewelry Show. While their conversation included many topics—especially nature and antiques—that were not directly about Fleming’s work, Callahan was impressed by how successfully she distills her interests in little drops of sparkly, shiny, frosty, and wearable glass.