Tommy Bullen's Wildfire Relief Fund
This go fund me is for my brother, Tommy Bullen, an artist and 9th generation Gatlinburg native, and his wife Jennifer Bullen. They had recently reopened our grandfather’s blacksmith shop and were using it as a pottery studio, a co-op where other artists could create and support themselves. They were just getting started and had 3 kilns, 2 wheels, 4000 lbs. of clay, 30 glazes, and all of their tools.
The night of the fire, 4 of them were there and they loaded up their cars as much as they could with already finished pottery until the smoke was too much. Not soon after, evacuation from Gatlinburg was a necessity. Tommy and our brother Matthew frantically cleared a downed tree blocking our grandfather’s driveway to help him and his wife, Jennifer, and our mom flee to safety. We would later find out that both Tommy and Jennifer’s and our grandfather’s houses which border the National Park were spared. But what about the shop?
We spent days wondering if it was still standing, combing through pictures posted by the first people to see the destruction, theorizing “was that it’s roof still standing” as we could faintly see through some trees in a picture. We had seen pictures all over the media of our childhood home burned to the ground and knew that places around their business were gone from other family that had been escorted to their properties. Then, after what felt like an eternity, the pictures came. It was gone. All of it. The building that my brother and I grew up in was unrecognizable. The place where our grandfather had made so much of the wrought iron pieces that made Gatlinburg unique, from the fences that line Downtown to the lampposts full of hand-built detail to the once iconic spiral staircase that stood in front of the Midtown Lodge in the heart of Downtown Gatlinburg, was rubble. We had grown up playing on those anvils. Nothing was spared. Unfinished pottery lay scattered everywhere amongst the debris. The walls of the kiln room had collapsed in on top of the kilns, rendering them unsalvageable. The wheels where so many of their and others’ unique arts were formed were left as charred husks. Hand-written glaze recipes born of countless hours of tinkering with materials and my brother’s often times whimsical sense of artistic adventure were ash. All the meticulously taken notes on kiln firings, glaze ingredient results, successes, and failures were gone. Complete and utter devastation.
I am asking for help on their behalf to rebuild their studio so that one day this tragedy can be channeled into beautiful hand formed works of art. This was all so new that insurance was still being shopped for with no plan in place. They will need to start over again completely from scratch. Any and all money raised will go directly into bringing their studio back to life.
so glad to see saved work. I found a picture that said that little bear I told you about was named "stargazer" not sure if it is your name for it. but it is very appropriate for me as well. :-) glad to see the fund is rising.