Life With Ferris: The Beautiful Nature Art By Lolly Durant

  • Monday, September 26, 2022
  • Ferris Robinson

Olive “Lolly” Ballard Durant grew up on Signal Mountain, spending as much time as she could outdoors where she got into all manner of mischief. Actually the word she would use instead of mischief might be experiences. Fascinated with all of the outdoors and its creatures and plants, she took personal ownership in the nearby apple orchard, putting herself smack dab in the middle of other creatures that claimed ownership in the apple trees: honeybees and yellow jackets. A self-proclaimed risk-taker at an early age, Lolly shrugs and says, “I’ve always been interested in creating things or taking things apart.”

This gentle, talented woman observes as a scientist, dissecting acorns and walnuts and all manner of flowers to get to the meat of them. But although she has learned the perfect way seeds are stored and spread in nature, she records them as an artist. And just like her subjects run the gamut and include almost every single thing in nature, Lolly’s preferred medium is definitely plural.

Pottery, prints, marbling and fabric design are a few of her favs, and teaching others is truly at her heart. She teaches, not surprisingly, at more than one place: Lee University, Scenic City Clay Arts and at various workshops, including those funded by Tennessee Arts Commission, ArtsBuild, St. Timothy’s Episcopal Intergenerational Events and the Jewish Culture Center. 

“I move like a canoe through the narrows in search of artistic expression as a teacher, potter, printmaker, mixed-media sculptor, and marble,” says the owner of EO Enterprise and Down and Under Pottery Studio who says her passion is creating something out of nothing, and as she walks about her gardens, she gathers blueberry roots, gourds, seed pods and more that definitely look exactly like something, but that only this artist can recognize initially.

Of course her studio and her home and her attic would be overflowing with her vast body of creations. In an effort to cull down her inventory, Lolly began boxing her monotype marbled prints and selling them in craft shows as framed prints, as well as note cards. 

“The mono-type application of floating inks on the top of a water bath continues to intrigue me,” Lolly says, adding that this can be done on cotton paper, cotton fabric, and on leather-hard clay with color slips. No worry if I lost you with leather-hard clay with color slips; we don’t need to be bothered with the technique. After you see the result, all you need to know is how to say, “More please.”

How she makes “marbled paper” look like something from a museum is beyond me. Her work is mindboggling in its complexity and its final effect; I could stare at “River Wash,” her sailcloth banner, the same way I could stare at the ocean.

Lolly’s newest venture has to do with one of her old ventures; she is creating notecards and stationery from her hand-marbled creations. Writing a note by hand has almost become a lost art. Emails or texts are creeping into sacred space, space for words that will be treasured, appreciated, perhaps passed down to children and grandchildren. The medium for these words is at your fingertips with Lolly’s stationery. Your words should deserve the very best. 

* * * 

Ferris Robinson is the author of three children’s books, “The Queen Who Banished Bugs,” “The Queen Who Accidentally Banished Birds,” and “Call Me Arthropod” in her pollinator series. “Making Arrangements” is her first novel. “Dogs and Love - Stories of Fidelity” is a collection of true tales about man’s best friend. Her website is and you can download a free pollinator poster there. She is the editor of The Lookout Mountain Mirror and The Signal Mountain Mirror.

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