Fourteen-year-old wins statewide fine arts competition

photo Allison Anderson's watercolor paintings have won first-place prizes in the Tennessee Association of Christian Schools statewide junior high fine arts competition.

ALLISON ANDERSONAge: 14.School: Home-schooled ninth-grader.Favorite movies: "Pride and Prejudice" and "Breakfast at Tiffany's."Favorite book: Any Agatha Christie book.Hobbies: Running, swimming, eating and baking.Pets: A rabbit, Clover; a turtle, Crush; a gerbil, Jabberwocky; two dogs, Ribsy and Sanford; and a cat, Nosy.Siblings: Adam, 19, and Sam, 16.

CLAIM TO FAMEAllison Anderson, 14, crafts jewelry at her home, which she has sold to fund several charitable efforts. Her watercolor paintings have won first-place prizes in the Tennessee Association of Christian Schools statewide junior high fine arts competition. She also competes in varsity cross-country races for the home-school track team the Chattanooga Patriots.

It started with chopsticks.

When she was 9 years old, Allison Anderson, now 14, had an itch to create something, so she began attaching painted beads to the wooden utensils to make elaborate hair pins for her grandmother.

In the years since, she has pursued many other endeavors, from designing T-shirts and sewing hats and scarves to assembling scrapbooks and running a home jewelry-making business called Groovy Girl Designs.

The desire to create comes in spurts, but when it arrives, it's hard to ignore, Allison said.

"Sometimes, I don't do it for a while because I just don't feel like it," she said. "Other times, I want to do it all the time."

Allison credits much of her drive to craft to her mother, Patricia Anderson, 45.

In addition to serving as their home-school instructor, Anderson made sure Allison and her brothers, Adam, 19, and Sam, 16, had plenty of outlets for their creativity other than watching TV, which she said was like potato chips: "It tastes good, but it's not very good for you."

With Allison's abundance of natural energy, however, Anderson said her daughter needed little encouragement to explore her artistic side.

"She's like a Jack Russell terrier at home. She always has to be busy, always doing something," Anderson said, laughing. "She would probably have to have been medicated had she not been home-schooled."

Allison has put her energy to other uses as well, including becoming an accomplished cross-country runner. In 2009, she joined the Chattanooga Patriots Cross Country, a team of home-schooled long-distance runners. As an eighth-grader in 2010, she began running varsity races, holding her own against a field of older competitors.

She also recently discovered an unexpected talent for watercolor painting. Two years ago, she entered a painting inspired by a picture in a book of Bible stories into the Tennessee Association of Christian Schools fine arts competition. The painting won first place at the state level, a feat she repeated this year with "Finally Home," which she painted for a friend who recently lost his grandmother.

Allison said she finds inspiration everywhere she goes. She salvages beads from tangled, castoff jewelry bought at thrift stores and yard sales to make Groovy Girl Designs necklaces and bracelets. And where some might see a voluminous pile of rags in a secondhand, plus-size dress, she sizes it up as seed fabric to replicate designs she sees in stores.

Allison said her need to craft is matched by her desire to help others, and she has often found ways to combine those two impulses.

For the last two years, she has designed the T-shirts for a 5K charity run hosted by Students for Sudan, a club her brother started to help fund the effort to rebuild churches burned during the Sudanese civil war. She also helps raise money for the club by selling Students for Sudan bracelets she makes and offers along with her other Groovy Girls creations.

Last year, Allison used funds from Groovy Girl sales to buy a sewing machine through the Christian humanitarian organization Samaritan's Purse. The machine was donated to women in Bangladesh affected by or at risk of being affected by human trafficking.

When she's older, Allison said, she would like to follow in the footsteps of Amy Carmichael, an Irish missionary who established a mission and orphanage in southern India.

"I guess I just want to help people out," she said. "I don't like anybody to be upset. We're supposed to help people."

Anderson said she and her husband find that impulse heartening.

"My husband and I tell our kids that we have no greater joy than to hear that they walk in truth," she said. "All we want for them is for them to follow God's voice."

"He will probably lead her in some pretty unconventional ways," she added, laughing. "She's pretty unconventional."


Do you know a child age 15 or younger with a precocious talent in academics, athletics or the arts? The Times Free Press is searching for children to feature in "Talent Show," which appears in the Life section on Tuesdays. To nominate a child as a possible subject of a future feature article, e-mail staff writer Casey Phillips at or call him at 423-757-6205.