Andrew and Etta McCall take vines—something most people wouldn't even think of as having potential—to create whimsical works of art. For the past 40 years, the McCalls have crafted everything from baskets to furniture to birdhouses from recycled or naturally harvested materials. Andrew is the primary creator, and Etta helps to gather the vines and materials, as well as run their Facebook page.
Known as the "Vine Man", Andrew hasn't always been creating. Before finding his passion for art, McCall tried a few things, including trade school, college, construction, and military. However, after finishing his military service, Andrew couldn't find a job that was enough to provide for his wife and then three children.
Eventually, Andrew found himself harvesting Spanish moss from trees and selling what he collected to wholesalers. One fateful day, Andrew took his Spanish moss in to sell and found his buyer creating wreaths from grape vines.
"He needed some made, so he asked me did I think I could make it. At that time, I wasn't turning down no work, so I told him he showed me how, I make it. So from that grape vine wreath and to my first piece of furniture or basket, that's what I did. That's how I got started."
The McCalls see their work as following a divine guidance by creating items using methods taught to them by God. Andrew says, "Everything I do, in my heart, God says, 'Do it this way. Do it that way.' So I don't consider myself self-taught, but a God-taught artist."
Andrew and Etta, along with their children throughout the years, spend time in the woods and abandoned areas near their home south of Montgomery in search of the right materials for their unique work. The lumber comes from old houses being torn down, and the vines are collected from the woods. Wisteria, grape, and kudzu vines are twisted together by hand to make baskets and furniture, reflecting the McCalls' respect for and enjoyment of nature.
“Working with a wisteria or kudzu vine is kind of like dancing. You have to let it tell you what to do – never get ahead of the vine," says Andrew McCall.
McCall has sold his pieces at galleries in Birmingham, fairs, and craft centers, and even QVC. He has been a featured artist of Southern Makers, a Black Belt Treasures Cultural Arts Center Treasured Artist in 2010 and 2015, and featured on Absolutely Alabama. The McCalls are longtime Kentuck Festival of the Arts participants.
Inspired by recent programming at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, beginning June 5th Kentuck Art Center is dedicating ten days of online content to the Black artists in our Permanent Collection. While Kentuck Art Center cannot address the full complexity of systemic racism on our own, we can gain perspective and a sense of purpose by listening to the voices of artists we are proud to have in our collection.
Kentuck's Permanent Collection holds artworks of significance to Kentuck's history, as well as the American Folk Art movement. The objects collected by Kentuck physically document the narrative of American Folk Art, as well as Kentuck's Festival, Studio, and Exhibiting artists. The objects in Kentuck's Permanent Collection form a history that is the basis for research, exhibition, interpretation, and community engagement.