A recipient of the Governor’s Arts Award in the category of Folklife Heritage, master broommaker Jack Martin learned his craft from his grandfather, Jack Hockaday, who in turn learned from his father, Will Hockaday. In addition to techniques and skill, he inherited his grandfather’s broom making tools and equipment and began making brooms full time in 1985. Once a prominent craft in McNairy County, today only two broommakers remain. Martin adds, “I am one of only about 200 broommakers left in the USA.” An avid and enthusiastic proponent of this tradition, Martin initiated a local broomcorn festival and has educated over a million school children about his craft. “I do exhibits, festivals, and public events, and many groups of all kinds come to me from all over to learn and watch this art,” Martin explains. His apprentice Jack Tipton has been making brooms for 2 years, evincing a strong commitment and desire to learn. The two plan to do two demonstrations at the tourism center and Martin’s Hockaday Broom shop at the culmination of their work together.
Jack Martin, Broomaker
Describe the traditional art you are teaching?
I am teaching traditional 1850s style Broom Making.
How did you learn this skill? Who taught you? How long have you been practicing it?
I learned from my Grandfather, Jack Hockaday, who learned from his father, Will Hockaday. I learned as a child and implemented it as a business in 1983. I began this as a part time hobby while working for Texas Instruments. Then in 1985, at the urging and with the help of my wife, I made this a full time business.
Why do you believe that it is important to preserve and pass down this art form?
Very few Broom makers remain. At the turn of the 19th century there were around 5 broom making families in the county and now there is only two. I am part of only about two hundred broom makers left in the USA.
What is the importance or role of this art form in your community? Where do you share your art form with others?
The importance is to keep folk art alive. As well as the educational value of broom making as we teach children the old way of doing this craft. I do exhibits, festivals, groups and public events as well as have many groups of all kinds come to me from all over to learn and watch this art.
Have you taught before?
Yes. I have taught 6 or 7 people who came out and took a broom making course from me over the last several years. Several of these have gone on to make brooms at festivals and public events. I have also demonstrated this craft to over a million children in the elementary and middle school system in Tennessee and Mississippi.
Tell us about your apprentice?
He has a strong desire and commitment to learn the whole art, and history. He is my ex son in law and still considered a close friend. He has helped with many things when I have needed and I know his level of desire and commitment.
Jack Tipton, apprentice broom maker
What is the traditional art form you are learning? How did you become familiar with it?
1850s Style Broom Making. I learned a little bit of this helping my father in law while married to his daughter. Although no longer married, I remain close with the family and still help out. I have learned a little and would like to learn the entire art of broom making. There is really not many people doing this anymore. Less than 200 in the country. I would hate to see this folk are die out. No one else in the family has any broom making skills.
How long have you been practicing this traditional art? Who has influenced you?
Although I have been around broom making through my father in law for over 20 years…. I have only been practicing for a couple of years and am in the beginning stages. I do enjoy it and Jack Martin is a great teacher.
What have been your goals while working with this master?
I love the way Jack Martin loves his art and the way he gets me excited to learn it. I also want to see this folk art live on. I would hate to see this old way of doing things go away and no one else be allowed to learn the art. It is an amazing art form and the brooms are sturdy and well made.
Why do you believe it is important to pass this tradition on?
I believe it is an important art form in not only my family but in my community. I think all ages and groups can benefit from this art form.
How are you sharing this tradition with the public and how will you further pass it down?
I would like to master this art form so I can one day educate others as Jack Martin as. To keep this folk art alive. I would do this the same way he did at festivals, with groups, and through teaching.