"Own a Piece of Alabama History"
My name is George Jones, Jr. and I am a fourth generation broommaker. My great-grandfather, George M. Jones, was the first to make brooms in my family. He was the manager of a large share-cropper farm in West Lauderdale County, Alabama. There were fifty families that lived and worked on this 1200-acre farm. Over the years, the farm produced many crops including cotton and corn. In 1931, the United States was in the midst of the Great Depression. During this time, most of the price supports for farm crops were removed and the economy of the farm came to a standstill. My great-grandfather began making brooms and growing popcorn to help generate income for the farm.
During the years leading up to the brooms, my great-grandfather made several trips to Memphis, Tennessee for farm business. Memphis had a broom supply company where they sold equipment, broomcorn, handles, and labels. This is where the equipment and the materials for the first year were purchased.
The second year, they grew all the broomcorn needed for their brooms. They planted 10 acres of broomcorn. It was harvested in the fall and dried in the barn that was once used to store corn and hay. The broom business was exceptionally good. He could make 120 brooms a day. He would make brooms all week and then market them on Saturday. He sold brooms to individuals and also to local stores for resale. A ‘kitchen’ broom was $0.25. He was paid $0.35 for a warehouse broom. These were designated by the number of rows of stitches. There were three rows on a kitchen broom and five rows on a warehouse broom. The sale of these brooms helped maintain the 50 families that lived and worked on the farm.
Fast-forward to 1986. This is where I began my broommaking journey. That year my father grew some very good broomcorn and I made my first brooms. I rejoiced in reviving the tradition that may family had enjoyed for many years. I wanted to look at brooms differently. I wanted to make brooms that were not only functional, but also pieces of art. I wanted to “Make Sweeping Fun!”
I had given everyone that I knew a broom. It was time to try selling a few. In 1992, I was fortunate enough to jury into Kentuck. The Kentuck Festival in Northport, Alabama is one of the best. This was my first festival. WOW...I had so much fun, met some wonderful people, and made some money. This was just the push that I needed to follow what I love.
I began working very hard at perfecting my art form. I started traveling throughout the South demonstrating at festivals and art shows. I have been a guest artist and a featured demonstrating artist at many festivals throughout the southeast. I also helped to start an Artists in the Schools program as part of the Gum Tree Festival in Tupelo, Mississippi.
HOW THE BROOMS HELPED SAVE MY LIFE
In October of 2009 I had a health issue. I was at a festival the first weekend of October. That Sunday, I had skipped lunch and found myself hungry that afternoon. I was in a hurry because I needed to finish an order and decided to grab something quick to eat. There were lines at most of the food booths except at the hotdog booth. Yes, not a very good late lunch, but it was the quickest thing I could grab to eat. The first bite....I bit my tongue. This was different than normal. It HURT....and then I had a place on my tongue start to swell. Over the course of the next few hours the swelling did not go away. By the time I got home that evening, the swelling in my tongue was affecting my speech. That Monday, I decided I needed to see what was going on with my tongue. Long story short, four days later I was diagnosed with cancer. Next stop was UAB Kirklin and three different doctors. The prognosis was not good. I was diagnosed with Stage 4 Non-Typical Squamous Cell Carcinoma. That is a long version for Tongue Cancer. I was to start treatment as soon as possible. I did delay treatment by a few days because I wanted to do the Kentuck Festival in Northport, Alabama. I NEEDED some normalcy in my life before I went on this journey and the BROOMS were my normalcy. Had a great festival and was fun. Then TREATMENT! This was rough. They had told me .
Don't see what you're looking for? Ask! We do special orders!
In 1996, I received a Folk Arts Apprenticeship Grant from the Alabama State Council on the Arts as a Master Craftsman.
In 2007, I received a Fellowship in Craft from the Alabama State Council on the Arts. Each year, two craft artist are selected for this honor based on their body of work and expertise in their craft.
In 2013, I again received a Folk Arts Apprenticeship grant from the Alabama State Council on the Arts
Also, numerous awards at various Arts and Craft Festivals.
The best place to buy one of my brooms is to come see me at a festival. You will see many unique and different styles of brooms that I make. You can feel the handles in your hands. You can test how my brooms sweep and you will feel the difference. Plus, you will get to watch me actually make a broom.
I have a selection of brooms at The Kentuck Museum Gift Shop. This is in Northport, Alabama. A portion of each sale helps Kentuck, a non-profit organization, to provide community educational programs and community events in the Northport/Tuscaloosa area.
I also have a booth at Studio 23 here in Florence, Alabama. I keep a nice selection of the various brooms that I make.
And as always, if you do not see what you want or have a 'Dream Broom', just ask.
Please check my website for other locations to purchase my work. I am currently adding new galleries and will also have brooms for sale on my website soon.