TALLADEGA -- The artist spotlight at LMo & Co. in Talladega will be a little different this month.
For starters, it will be on Sunday, March 11, rather than its traditional Friday. And secondly, there will be three artists presented, none of whom work in painting, sculpture, photography or other traditional visual arts.
This month’s slate includes Southern Living travel writer Valerie Fraser Luesse, who will be signing copies of her debut novel, “Missing Isaac;” honey and beeswax related products from Shocco Mountain Apiary; and candles by Firefly of Lineville.
Luesse attended high school with Marie Moses, mother of LMo’s owner, Lindsey Moses. Leusse is a native of Harpersville, a graduate of Auburn University and resident of Birmingham.
According to the press kit, “Missing Isaac” is “set in rural Alabama in the 1960s. (The novel) tells the captivating story of a black field hand, Isaac Reynolds, who goes missing from the tiny, unassuming town of Glory, Alabama.
“The townspeople’s reactions vary from concern to indifference. But one boy will stop at nothing to find out what happened to his friend.”
Pete McLean, a fatherless but wealthy white boy “has nothing to gain and everything to lose in his relentless search for Isaac. Before it’s all over, Pete and the people he loves most will discover more than they bargained for—including unexpected love and difficult truths about race and class.”
Luesse said the setting of the book reflects the time and place where she grew up, and her family provided most of the primary research. She goes on to describe the story as “not so much about race as it is a call for the basic human dignity of every individual—black or white, rich or poor.”
She adds she grew up in an all-white rural community, attended an all-white academy and didn’t really meet any African-Americans until she went to Auburn. Race was a non-issue, as she discovered that all of the girls in her integrated dormitory were dealing with the same concerns.
Shocco Mountain Apiary
Huell Love Jr. and Cassie Love are the owners of Shocco Mountain Apiary. They have 15 to 20 hives and sell honey, skin cream, soap and lip balms. The work is often more challenging than people think.
“Managing bees is an art, but keeping them alive is a science,” according to Huell Love. “My parents used to be able to just put out hives, get the honey, and that was it. It’s not like that anymore.”
The Loves said they were not particularly interested in keeping bees until they started having pollination issues with sourwood trees. Shocco Mountain is right behind them, and there are no row crops nearby, so the pesticides that have decimated so many bee populations are not an issue.
They taught themselves pretty much from the ground up, with a great deal of help from the Alabama Beekeepers Association, which meets yearly in Clanton.
They encourage people to buy local honey, “because that way you always know what you’re going to get,” Huell Love said. Also, do not throw away honey that has begun to crystalize. That only means the honey is in it’s natural, unprocessed and unfiltered state.
Cassie said she has been making and selling honey products for about a decade and made her first sale to Lindsey and Marie Moses.
“I can tell you everything that’s in them, and I can pronounce everything that’s in them,” she said.
She gets her recipes from other beekeepers and then tweeks them by playing with the essential oils therein to come up with something her own. The first variety was lavender and rosemary, with tea tree, evening primrose oil and vitamin E also being popular ingredients.
And, of course, they also sell all different varieties of honey.
The color and flavor of the honey will vary according to the time of year and what plants the bees are pollinating, Huell said.
“We sell out every year,” Cassie added.
Anna Norton, of Lineville, founded Firefly Candles when she and her daughter were looking for some extra money.
“We develop the recipes, produce the candles and sell them,” Norton said. “I picked the name Firefly as sort of a Southern thing, took it to a printing company and got it printed on some craft labels.” The labels go on Mason jars with rustic lids to complete the rural Southern feel.
The business has been going strong for four years and is moving about 700 candles per year. They are available for sale at a couple of local stores and are also popular for fundraisers.
“Now the goal is to try and teach my 14-year-old daughter the business,” Norton said. “This will be her summer job when she turns 16.”
Her candles have the highest levels of fragrance one can safely get from a 16-ounce candle. “I’ve been told they’re better than the ones at Yankee Candle,” she said.
The most popular scent is probably sugar cookie, she said, and she was even able to fill a special order for one with sprinkles, she said. She also provides candles for Relay for Life every year in the event’s trademark royal purple, regardless of scent.
The signature Firefly Yellow candle has a distinctive scent all its own. Other popular flavors include Froot Loop, Pomegranate and Kudzu. All of them will be available at LMo & Co. on Sunday from 2 to 5 p.m.