by Barney Quick
photo by Cindy Steele
Cathy Haggerty’s business card will tickle your curiosity. Along with a mention of the many items she sells at Cathy’s Corner in Nashville, it advertises her talent as an artist of portraits and saw blades. Saw blades? Yes, saw blades.
A pastoral scene from her parents’ farm in Carroll County, Indiana, replete with a barn and tractors in fields, is depicted on a large saw blade hanging between the front and back sections of the shop. “I’d love to get some commissions for more saw blade work,” says Haggerty.
The spirit of her shop is similarly one of possibilities in life’s odd little details. To say she sells antiques, curios, jewelry, or art would all be accurate, but what she really offers is stories.
There are stories from her personal life, stories about art students, ones about people who have brought her jewelry, and those behind the many unusual items in the shop.
Cathy’s Corner features display cases of jewelry. Pointing to a particular ring, Cathy says, “A man in his 80s brought that in. He said, ‘I’ve put my wife in a nursing home. I want to sell her ring so my kids don’t fight over it.’” A Bloomington man who makes periodic attic-cleaning trips to New York City brought her a pearl necklace.
In addition to jewelry you will find antique clothing, tools, and pop-culture artifacts such as almanacs, comic books, and sports memorabilia. Cathy can point out some of the other unique treasures that she has never seen anywhere else like the Japanese bridal dowry box from the 1860s or the Victorian mannequin for doll clothing of the same vintage. Visitors browsing her wares will discover a beaded Zulu belt, an Australian aboriginal boomerang and bowls, and an early American foot warmer made by the Logan Pottery Company. More conventional merchandise includes campaign buttons, typewriters, rods and reels, and oil cans. She boasts a considerable collection of lace items such as gloves, doilies, collars, and cuffs. “Look at the meticulous work that went into this,” she says, fingering a glove. “Women in the Victorian era had so much time to craft these little details.”
The store is an outgrowth of her buy-sell-and-trade activity over the past twenty years. “The way I see it, the world is awash in stuff,” she says. “There are so many opportunities every day to touch history.”
Her plan is to eventually devote a space by her front window to art classes. She loves to both create and teach. She currently teaches through Bloomington’s People’s University as well as Meadowood Retirement Community. “I feel guilty getting paid, I enjoy it so much,” she says. She is convinced that anyone can paint, noting that “it’s a matter of seeing things a certain way.” Her oldest student is 92.
Haggerty is from a farm family near Delphi in northern Indiana. She enrolled at Indiana University in 1970 where her first major was ceramics. She met her husband Tom at a snowball fight outside his fraternity house. “We went into the kitchen and made hot chocolate,” she recalls. Raising three sons extended her college pursuits a number of years. Eventually she earned a degree in visual arts as well as K–12 teaching certification.
Her favorite medium is oil although she likes watercolor for the ease with which materials can be transported. She feels something larger than her own personality is at work in her art. “I’m a vessel for it,” she notes. “It comes from somewhere else.”
Her work / study project at I.U. combined her love of visual art and cultural legacy. She photographed and catalogued campus artifacts. “I had access to Lilly Library, the president’s house, the student union and hotel, pretty much everyplace,” she recalls. “I had a hand in recovering a Remington sculpture that was missing from the library. They had no record of it except for my photograph.”
She considers the store a work in progress. “I’ll see what sells best and go in that direction,” she says.
Cathy’s Corner is located at 39 East Franklin Street next to the Nashville Express train depot. Cathy Haggerty can be contacted at (812) 988-4091 or e-mail at <email@example.com>.