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‘Nature’ally Beautiful – Bradford Brackin shares nature inspired art

As a child, Bradford Brackin remembers going on nature walks with her mother and enjoying the beauty all around them.

Their close bond is what ignited her passion for nature and the detailed beauty that’s within it.

“Details Bradford, details,” she remembered her mother saying to her as they admired the beauty and detailing of nature’s simplest of things.

Bradford can still recall times where her mother would point out the details in how the branches of one tree hung differently than another, thus making it more beautiful to paint.

“Nature has a huge influence on me,” she said. “My work has been kind of abstract, but there’s always some sort of natural element in there. I’m just drawn to nature.”

Brackin comes from an artistic family, and she said both her mother and sister have a niche for art. Her older sister is a photographer and her mother has done quite a few artistic things.

Her mother is a painter, interior decorator and gardener, but mostly she sees her as her greatest inspiration.

“My mom can do anything,” Brackin said.

She said her mother has taught her so much of what it means to truly be an artist and pay attention to the detail in her work.

With no formal training and just inspiration from nature and her mother and her faith as her guides, Brackin has now started embellishing wooden crosses with oyster and mussel shells.

She chose to decorate crosses to symbolize her growth in her faith in God.

“I had really gotten on board with the Lord,” she said.

The first step is having the foundation of her artwork complete before she can add the shells.

Artist Micah Bailey makes the foundation for the cross. He has been making the cross forms for Brackin for the last two years. She said she can always count on him to be reliable and precise.

Brackin spoke about his immense talent and she is grateful for their years of partnership.

“It is unbelievable that we have him right here in Selma,” she said.

The second step is gathering the shells.

Through the years, Brackin has gathered the oysters and mussels various ways.

“I used to go to restaurants where they were shucking oysters live,” she said “I would bring the shells home and clean them and bleach them myself.”

However, she said after the amount of time it took, and the bad smell, she sought other options.

“Majority of my shells come from the Rosemary Beach area in Alys Beach,” she said.

Brackin said in the past she has gathered mussels from the Alabama River, but she generally collects them from Yellow Creek in Tuscaloosa.

Brackin, her cousin and her dog travel to Tuscaloosa together where the murky waters of Yellow Creek hide one of the main ingredients of her artwork.

“We have to feel to the mushy bottom of the water with our toes, and dig with our toes until we feel the sharp rounded end of the mussel,” Brackin said. “We then have to use our foot to throw it into the canoe.”

She discovered how beautiful the mussels were on the inside after one of her family members opened one while at the river. Since then, she has been gathering the mussel shells. She said the process of gathering enough mussel shells to complete her artwork could take hours to complete, but it’s well worth it.

“[The mussel shells] are a purple iridescent color on the inside,” she said. “It’s the coolest most gorgeous thing I’ve ever seen. It looks like a rainbow on the inside.”

After gathering and cleaning the oyster and mussel shells, she uses a hot glue gun to apply them to the crosses, before coating them with an adhesive to firmly secure them and ready them to be an inspiration to the people who purchase or receive them as gifts.

Brackin is extremely proud of her masterpieces and truly feels like she has now found her own place in her artistic family.

You can find Brackin’s artwork on sale at Gallery 905 in Selma.