Scottie Miller was surrounded by art growing up. But we’re not talking the refined art of oil paintings and museum trips. We’re talking about sheet metal, gobs of house paint and hammers.
Miller, grandson of the late Rabbittown artist R.A. Miller, continues the legacy of his grandfather’s art today, cutting tin and making whirligigs in a three-sided shed behind his house. He uses some of the same tools his grandfather used to make his tin characters, only he’s allowed his own style to creep in over the years.
“When I was little, was six years old, and all we’d do was junk hunt, just digging under trash piles,” he said of time spent at his grandfather’s home, not too far from the large rabbit that marks the East Hall area. R.A. Miller died in 2006. “He seen a windmill and said, ‘I can build that,’ so he built one the next day and he’s been doing that ever since.
“That was the early ’80s, so I’ve been around it all my life.”
Today, Miller still hammers out tin and paints rustic feathers on cutouts of chickens. His figures also include crabs, devils, angry fish and American flags. He also assembles whirligigs, just like the ones that adorned the hill where his grandfather’s house sat.
He’s added his own twist on the artwork, too, by putting folk art-styled paintings on glass window frames.
Miller said the main reason he decided to keep his grandfather’s art going is because not many others in the family can do it.
“Nobody else in the family wanted to, and really there’s only a couple of us in the family who can still do it, that know how,” he said. “Especially the cut outs. That was the hardest.
Miller said his mother and aunt helped his grandfather paint when he got older and lost much of his eyesight.
Today, Miller said he still uses tin collected when his grandfather was alive, but he also finds occasional treasures from junk hunters
Today, you can find Miller’s art at Matilda’s Art Gallery in Alpharetta, and Miller said he’s planning on selling his art at this fall’s Mule Camp Market on the Gainesville square.
Along with the tin cutouts, Miller also continues his grandfather’s whirligigs, too. In fact, Miller said, he made the first whirligig to stand in his grandfather’s yard that used a bicycle tire rim as part of its mechanics.
“I was the first one to ever make one of those. I read it in a 4-H book. And I went up there and made it, and then I quit making it and he started making it,” he said. “I made my first one in ‘88 ... I think I was 13 years old. He said, ‘Well, put it in the yard.’ So I did and he sold it.”
Many a passerby stopped to look at his grandfather’s whirligigs, he said, and when they offered $10 or $15 for one, his grandfather would take them up on it.
“Papa, he’d sell it for $15, then people would sell it for $60, $70,” Miller said.
Miller said one time he saw a Blow Oscar, a cut tin figure named for his grandfather’s cousin, for sale in New York for $1,500.
“I seen a 10-speed wheel on eBay, that I made, was $500.”