Like most people, I absolutely detest anything to do with spiders. But Anne Bradshaw Clopton was a bit different. In 1889 at 11 years old, Clopton discovered a magazine article about a German artist who used gossamer, or extremely fine spider silk, as his canvas. Clopton decided to give it a try. She’d collect a few layers of cobwebs from the nook and crannies of her home in Huntsville, Alabama then with a very fine camel’s hair brush, paint her subject directly onto the web with tiny dots, called stippling, on a matte frame. Each painting took about 5 or 6 weeks to complete. No one knows how many paintings Clopton, who died in 1956, produced in total. But her legacy lives on.
Ron and Jerrine Gray, owners of “The Dream Maker” on Triana Boulevard in Huntsville discovered Clopton lived in the home in the 1950s where she created her “spiderweb” paintings. For three years the Grays tirelessly researched Clopton and decided to preserve the history of the home. In a tiny cedar closet, that’s estimated to be about 3 feet by 4 feet, the Grays recreated Clopton’s studio where she delicately constructed her miniature “spiderweb” paintings depicting local landmarks, animals, people…and spiders, of course. It’s possible the closet might be the world’s smallest art museum.
Much of Clopton’s art was destroyed, even in her own lifetime. “People would poke holes in them to see if they were real,” says Ron Gray, the owner of the closet. Still a few survived, many were her personal keepsakes, like a tiny portrait of President McKinley, so old that it most likely predates the closet studio. So if you want to see where the “Spider Web Lady” did her artwork (along with a video and photographs of her paintings on the walls), stop by the new-agey shop “The Dream Maker.” It’s free!