Rachel Ford’s unique folk art pieces are all about the woods of the MidSouth in more ways than one. The 26-year-old painter has been crafting her East Tennessee-influenced vision of native animals on reclaimed wood for nearly a year now. “I’ve always done painting as a hobby and for friends — birthdays, Christmas, baby showers,” Ford says. “About eight months ago, I started posting stuff on Facebook, and, eventually, it blew up. I ended up spending more time painting than I did at my other job, so I made the switch."
Rachel’s work is inspired by a lifelong love of the land, sparked by a series of visits to her grandmother’s East Tennessee home. Her acrylic-on-reclaimed wood painting reflect the traditional Appalachian quilt patterns popular in the area, as well as her own take on the reclaimed wood she uses as a canvas. “I try to pick pieces with a little bit of character, maybe a big knot, some exposed bark, a hole, and see what I can make it into,” she says. “I see what lends itself to the wood, like, for example, a Western theme versus something more geometric and modern.”
While the colorful, geometric animal shapes are the stars of her work, Rachel spends about half her time preparing the wood. “I try to be as precise as possible,” she says. “Everything is found locally, disinfected, cleaned, stained and sanded down. You don’t have to worry about any splinters.”
Rachel attempts to base each piece around on silhouettes she sees in the wood, with many manifesting in the form of black bears, coyotes, wild mustangs and other local fauna. “Most of the animals you see in my paintings are native to Tennessee,” she says, noting that 20 percent of the proceeds from her sales are donated to the Tennessee Wildlife Federation.
A selection of Ford’s work is currently available for viewing and purchase at Phillip Ashley Chocolates in Midtown Memphis and SideStreet Burgers in Olive Branch.