A queen lives in Waxahachie. She just so happens to be a queen of porcelain.
Nettie Wharton is an award-winning 83-year-old that has made a career out of painting fine China. In 1974, she was first introduced to the art after she participated in a class at Eastfield College in Mesquite. Forty years later, she’s still in love with the art form and has maintained it as her artistic passion.
“My art has turned out to be so rewarding in my life in so many ways,” Wharton remarked. “I am so grateful for all the friends I have made over the 40-plus years I have spent in this business.”
Wharton said she’s always been a hands-on kind of an artist.
Born in a small town close to Laredo, Wharton said she'd had a rough and challenging childhood, adding that her mother died when she was only two years old and her stepmother passed away six years later.
During these periods of grief, Wharton began to use her natural artistic talent to “make things.” She said she especially loved to paint and sew.
Longing to have a family of her own, Wharton married at a young age and quickly had four children. She said although they weren’t poor, she worked very hard and did all she could to make her children comfortable. She remembered making many of her children’s’ clothes, doll dresses and even shirts and pajamas.
Around the 1980s, Nettie started gaining notoriety by exhibiting her artwork at antique stores around the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex. Her highest recognition came in 1981 when she won the coveted “Best of Show” award at the Texas State Fair in Dallas for a muffin stand made from black walnut wood. The stand holds three hand-painted oval tiles with three different designs featuring fruit. She keeps it in her living room as a reminder of how far she’s come since then.
That same year, Wharton founded the Cedar Creek Porcelain Art Club in the Cedar Creek Lake area. She was also the former State president for the State Federation of Porcelain Art Clubs from 1994-95.
After she relocated to Waxahachie in 2001, she and her late husband, Roy McHone, founded and organized the Ellis County Porcelain Art Club in 2003. She currently serves as the first vice president for the group.
WAXAHACHIE WORKS OF ART
These days, Wharton exhibits her work at the “Art On the Square” shop in downtown Waxahachie across from the Ellis County Courthouse. She also has work displayed at Waxahachie City Hall from time-to-time.
“It is too hard to determine which favorite piece of art I have completed in my lifetime. However, the most challenging is a very large painting that I recently finished,” Wharton remarked. “The painting is of a saloon scene, and it is very special to me because I am doing this project for some of my precious relatives. Their new home will feature an actual saloon as one of its regular rooms.”
Wharton said she’s also currently working on a 21-inch vase, detailed with an intricate painting of a peacock and flowers around the base.
In addition to her artwork, Wharton has also taught at the Waxahachie Senior Center and the Texas Baptist Children’s Home. She is also head of several programs at the Dallas Porcelain Art Guild and the North East Texas Porcelain Art Club.
Wharton also teaches two or three classes a week at her home. Three of her students recently competed in the Junior Exhibit Division at the State Federation of Porcelain Art Clubs of Texas in April 2018. Some of their work is shown in the 2018 summer issue of the Porcelain Art Club Magazine. Two of her young lady painters also won “Best of Show,” which has made her very proud as their tutor.
“I will always treasure the hours I have spent with the promising art students I have taught over the years as they become so close to me,” she said. “I so enjoy seeing them love what they are painting. All the parties, meetings, conventions, visits, trips, calls, etc., have been so meaningful to me.”
A MUSEUM AT HOME
Wharton likened her Waxahachie home to a museum. Surrounding her living room all around the walls are paintings, porcelain dolls, vases, hand-painted jewelry and delicate China pieces.
Throughout the years, she’s urged her family and other relatives to come and pick pieces from her collection so they could keep them in her remembrance.
“Some special items that have been selected are still so important to me that I cannot bear to part with them just yet,” she explained. “Instead, I have asked each person to write down what item they want after I’m gone.”
Wharton remarked that she’s proud of her large and ever-growing family. She currently has 10 grandchildren, 25 great-grandchildren and one great-great-grandchild.
She also found it interesting that both of her husbands were painters. Her current husband, Donald Wharton, who she married in 2013, paints in oil and on China. Her daughter also crafts stained-class artwork and painted the Whartons' front living room window.
Wharton said her family enjoys the quality time they spend painting and creating art together. She said they dubbed her as the “masterpiece of a matriarch.”
“These things are memories that I will always cherish,” she added.