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Old Ingram Loop

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By Maxine Mayes

Last winter, on a hunt for a pair of decorative wooden ducks to give as a gift, I visited Old Ingram Loop, a shopping village and artist colony in the historic district of Ingram, just off Texas 39. Traditional mega-malls hold no appeal for me, but Old Ingram Loop’s serene ambiance and vintage buildings full of one-of-a-kind treasures “had me from hello,” as the Kenny Chesney song says. Recently, with my cousin, Shirley Spencer, I returned to Ingram to browse the Loop at leisure.

Two Labrador Retrievers, one mouthing a purple ball, greeted us at the Copper Cactus, where Sherri and Jay Chatfield live and work. The dogs escorted us across a porch and through a chili-pepper-red door. Inside, Sherri guided us through the eight-room gallery, starting with the couple’s kitchen, which doubles as Sherri’s showroom. We admired her creations, especially a necklace fashioned from silver, smoky quartz, and red coral. In the back room we met Jay, who crafts art furniture from rustic woods and copper. We liked a hammered copper table on a cypress base, accented with short pieces of old cedar fence posts from local ranches.

A few doors down, the Stage House Gallery showcases the paintings, mostly Western scenes, of Roy Lee Ward, the Texas State Artist of 1994 and 1995. Roy Lee’s wife, Betty, told us that he sometimes “paints the light into his pictures,” using a technique that imparts a glow—to windows of a house, a sunrise, a campfire—even when external lights are dimmed. Later, he described the process. “I separate the distance between the bluer shadow areas,” he said, “and heighten the warmer color areas. The effect is startling.”

At Judith’s, the shop where I bought the ducks last year, we found merchandise old and new, from Chinese Satsuma pottery to a lobby bench from the Menger Hotel in San Antonio. But, like a pair of children, Shirley and I lingered longest before a collection of musical bears, pressing paws to hear jangly renditions of songs like “The Gambler” and “I Hope You Dance.”

Outside Judith’s, we followed a corridor to a wide veranda that looks down upon a terrace brightened by beds of red impatiens, and across a sloping lawn to Old Ingram Lake. It’s actually the backyard of long-time Loop residents Harold and Judy Wunsch, who own Riverside RV Park and serve as the Loop’s de facto tourism promoters. Fortunately for visitors, they share the peaceful view. Theirs is one of many camps, lodges, and summer homes along the Guadalupe River from Kerrville to Hunt and beyond. Just upriver from Old Ingram Lake, the Wunsches told me, is New Ingram Lake, where summertime visitors can slide inner tubes down the dam’s 100-foot spillway.

When it was time for lunch, we headed to Hardin and Yvette Covington’s Old Ingram Deli, hoping to try Hardin’s famous Reuben sandwiches or homemade pizza, but we struck out. The deli was closed. Instead, we went back to the highway, and we snagged the last empty table at Spirit Wind Java, where we enjoyed cups of savory bacon-and-potato soup and hearty sandwiches.

Back on the Loop, we visited Horsefeathers, where the vibrant colors of Latin American imports brighten every shelf and corner. My pick was the lacquerware from Mexico. “Each is painted with several colorful layers,” explained shop owner Marrena Robinson. “Then the artisans etch out intricate patterns using a thorn, cactus spine, or other sharp object.” I asked about Pierre, the loveable resident cat I’d met last time. “Oh, he only comes inside during winter,” she said. “Then he chooses the most expensive textile to lie on.”

Vivid images of Guatemala stand out from the paintings of Western characters, roosters, buffalo, and bluebonnets on the walls of Steven Napper’s studio. Napper travels to that country annually to conduct workshops and further explore a land and culture he loves.

Silversmith Clint Orms has designed pieces for Tiger Woods and Prince Charles, but you don’t have to be famous to appreciate his stellar workmanship. Orms designs all the belt buckles crafted in his shop. “I’d like to see that one,” I said to salesman Joe Rolls, pointing to a beautiful buckle about the size of a deck of cards. On a sterling-silver canvas, using three types of gold, the shop’s artisans had layered an entire Western scene, including a bearded cowboy on horseback, six Longhorn cattle, clouds above and cactus below. This intricate piece costs $37,500, but you’ll find other items that are less dear.

At Don Atkinson’s Custom Boot & Saddle Shop, we paused to savor the distinctive, pleasant smell of the leather saddles and boots displayed throughout the lobby. The walls are covered with framed prints of intricate, decorative boot patterns; autographed pictures of famous clients, from astronauts to movie stars; and photos of the younger Atkinson as a rodeo cowboy. (My favorite memento was the custom boot pattern he made for country musician Bob Wills back in 1948.) Atkinson has been plying his craft since the early 1940s, broken only by a stint in the Korean War. “I made my first saddle when I was 12 and had my own shop when I was 18,” he said, “and I still work 12 to 15 hours a day. It keeps me young.”

Next door, we found sculptor Tom Moss in the middle of his studio, detailing the clay model of a horse. “This will be the mount for a circuit-riding preacher,” he explained. “It’s a commissioned piece for a Methodist minister.” All of Moss’ custom-and-limited-edition bronzes—Indian warriors, cowboys, pioneer women—reflect his passion for the Old West. Shirley especially liked Attitude Is Everything, his depiction of a frontier cowgirl with a proud stance and confident countenance. What caught my eye was a miniature fountain featuring a colt and a turtle at a watering hole.

Though I lean toward Western art, I was intrigued by the contrasting styles of Loop artists Kathleen Cook, Todd Winters, and Lavinia Schlabach. Cook, in her loft-like studio, works primarily with pastels. Surprising objects in some of her paintings, like a pinwheel in the hand of a dignified, elderly lady or scattered marbles sharing table space with an elegant floral arrangement, suggest playfulness. Winters’ acrylic and watercolor canvases burst with bold, exaggerated color. Schlabach, known for her acrylic renderings of geraniums, has been painting for 50 years and is affectionately called “Mother of the Loop.”

I’m glad I live within an hour’s drive of the Loop, because I plan to revisit soon to shop, dine at the deli, and renew my acquaintance with Pierre the cat. Besides, Sherri and Jay Chatfield said to stop by anytime “to pet an old Labrador on the head and have a cup of coffee.” You can’t get that at the mall.

Old Ingram Loop is 5 miles west of Kerrville off Texas 39. For more information, contact the Kerrville Convention and Visitors Bureau, 800/221-7958; or call Harold and Judy Wunsch, 830/367-4843.

ESSENTIALS

Copper Cactus, 100 Old Ingram Loop; 830/367-7711; www.thecoppercactus.com.

Stage House Gallery, 211 E. Old Ingram Loop; 830/367-3016.

Judith’s, 211B Old Ingram Loop; 830/367-5107.

Riverside RV Park, 211 Old Ingram Loop; 830/367-4843; http://riversidervpark-tx.tripod.com.

Old Ingram Deli, 241 Old Ingram Loop; 830/367-2362.

Spirit Wind Java, 109 Texas 39; 830/367-7585.

Horsefeathers, 215 Old Ingram Loop; 830/367-5020.

Steven Napper Fine Art, 217B Old Ingram Loop; 830/367-7775; www.napperfineart.com.

Clint Orms Engravers & Silversmiths, 229B Old Ingram Loop; 830/367-7949; www.clintorms.com.

Don Atkinson’s Custom Boot & Saddle Shop, 229 Old Ingram Loop; 830/367-5400; www.donatkinson.com.

Tom Moss Studio, 229D Old Ingram Loop, 830/367-3430; www.tommossstudio.com.

Kathleen Cook Studio & Gallery, 109 Coultress Rd.; 830/257-6288; www.kathleencook.com.

The Winters Gallery, 214 Old Ingram Loop; 830/285-1382; www.wintersgallery.com.

Old Ingram Gallery & Studio, 210 Old Ingram Loop; 830/367-4104.

Read 10841 times Last modified on Friday, 13 July 2012 13:06

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