Martin and Wright: Broommaking

Jack Martin

Jack Martin, of Selmer, is a fourth generation broommaker and past recipient of the Governor’s Arts Award in the category of Folklife Heritage. Jack learned his craft from his grandfather, Jack Hockaday, who in turn learned from his father, Will Hockaday. In addition to techniques and skill, Jack inherited his grandfather’s tools and equipment and began making brooms full time in 1985. Once a prominent craft in McNairy County, today only two broommakers remain. Jack adds, “I am part of only about 200 broommakers left in the USA.”

Photo courtesy of Kelly Wright

An avid and enthusiastic proponent of this tradition, Jack 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,” Jack explains.  Jack has taught several people the art of broommaking over the years. In 2017, he participated in the inaugural Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Program with apprentice Jack Tipton. Jack’s brooms are sought-after pieces; his shop, Hockaday Handmade Brooms, is a destination for people all over the country.

Apprentice Kelly Wright, of Pinson, previously took a broom making course and sought out Jack to further her training. She is experienced with creating handmade craft objects and has already learned some basic stitching and tying methods from Jack. Kelly aims to continue making brooms and hopes to teach classes in the future. With deep roots in West Tennessee, Kelly acknowledges the importance of continuing traditions, saying, “It’s important that we know how to make useful things as our ancestors did. I am fascinated with the antique machinery Jack has and his brooms are absolutely gorgeous. He is a master at his craft. We need to understand how to live off the land and turn raw materials into useful objects. I plan to make brooms and possibly teach classes in the future.”