Rosemary Beryl Snook "Snooky" Fisher (1927–1983)
Rosemary Beryl Snook Fisher was an artist and pottery instructor for the Arkansas Arts Center for several years. She had an active interest in the preservation of the art forms of the Ozarks but was influenced by many diverse cultures. As a devoted teacher into her last years, she influenced many future artists. She had added local notoriety as the wife of George Fisher, the chief editorial cartoonist for the Arkansas Gazette. Her husband regularly wove her nickname, Snooky, into his cartoons; for many years, a favorite game among readers was to find the hidden nickname.
Rosemary Snook was born in early 1927 in Burnham-on-Sea, England, to Harold George Snook and Rose Annie Elliott; she had three younger siblings. On a scholarship, she studied ceramics and pottery at the Municipal College of Art, now known as the Arts Institute of Bournemouth. As a sophomore, she met her future husband, George Fisher. He served in the U.S. Army during World War II and was stationed in England for training. While there, he was employed as a cartoonist for a regimental newsletter designed to improve the morale of servicemen. The two met when George was borrowing art supplies from the college.
The couple corresponded while he continued his tour of duty in Germany. George Fisher sent Snook a silk parachute he had liberated in Trier, Germany. She used this parachute to craft her wedding dress. After his service ended, the couple married on February 20, 1946.
George Fisher then moved to his hometown of Beebe (White County), with Fisher following in July. As a war bride, Fisher traveled from England by merchant ship and then by train. When she met her husband in Beebe, she amused him by wearing a tag marked “First Class Freight.” For a short time, she taught art at what was then Junior Agricultural College of Central Arkansas, now known as ASU–Beebe. The couple then moved to West Memphis (Crittenden County), where George Fisher accepted a job as cartoonist with the West Memphis News. After the newspaper closed in 1949, the couple moved to Little Rock (Pulaski County), where George began his long career of editorial cartooning for the North Little Rock Times and later for the Arkansas Gazette and the Arkansas Times. In about 1954, the couple set up Fisher Art Services, which they ran for many years.
In either 1953 or 1954, Fisher and her husband worked with the ABC affiliate KATV to create a syndicated television puppet show designed for children. Phydeaux and His Friends featured puppets that Fisher made out of papier-mâché around the molds that her husband made out of clay. The show’s political satire and puppets were pleasing to both adults and children.
Fisher’s longtime association with the Arkansas Arts Center began in spring 1960 when she taught pottery-making in a carriage house behind Trapnall Hall. After the Arts Center was completed in 1962, she continued to teach the craft to hundreds of students. Later, she was the head of the pottery program at the well-respected Art Center Museum School.
The Fishers had a mountain home retreat in Timbo (Stone County). In the 1960s, their Timbo neighbor, folksinger Jimmy Driftwood, worked with the Fishers and many others to create the Rackensack Folklore Society to preserve the music of the Ozarks. The Fishers later worked with the Arkansas Arts Center to start a Pulaski County chapter of this preservation society.
Fisher continued to study her craft at many institutions, including the University of Tennessee and the Haystack School of Crafts in Deer, Maine. Fisher shared her expanding knowledge of jewelry-making, pottery, ceramics, and design at several schools in England and in Arkansas, and she worked as an art consultant and teacher for several companies. She judged art competitions and served as a valuable contributor and an objective critic of her husband’s cartoons.
Fisher’s early pottery comprised mainly cups, bowls, and other smaller pieces. In the mid-1970s, Fisher visited the Chinese Archeological Exposition in Kansas City, Missouri. It was there that she realized she “had to work big.” From that time on, her pieces were larger in size and in meaning. Another breakthrough followed her being diagnosed with cancer in the 1970s. According to her husband, “she didn’t really break out and become a great artist” until this diagnosis. Following the cancer’s discovery, Fisher started to seriously study ancient pottery. Her work ranged from functional domestic ware to abstract sculptural pieces.
The physical challenges posed by her illness were great but did not stop her work. In 1981, she said, “I can’t get my ideas into clay fast enough.” She continued to actively teach until hospitalized shortly before her death. Her work can be found in collections throughout the South, including the Foundation Collection at the Arts Center, the University of Central Arkansas (UCA) in Conway (Faulkner County), and the Butler Center for Arkansas Studies.
In 1976, George Fisher became the chief editorial cartoonist for the Gazette and began hiding his wife’s nickname, Snooky, in his cartoons. This joke between the husband and wife was discovered about a year later and soon turned into a game for avid readers. George Fisher liked to weave the letters “in as an integral part” of the design saying, “Once it was the flame on the Statue of Liberty. Once you had to draw a line from star to star in the sky to get it.” This feature of the editorial page was so popular that people would call the Gazette if they could not find Snooky on that day. Teachers used this attraction as a tool to engage their students in the editorial page.
Fisher died at the age of fifty-six on August 25, 1983. She is buried in Beebe. On the day following her death, her husband remembered her with a cartoon of a lone flower standing high in a vase; its petals reading “Snooky.” In tribute to her, he continued to hide her name for Snooky fans.
For additional information:
Dumas, Ernest. Interview with George Fisher, August 5, 2000. Arkansas Gazette Project. Special Collections. University of Arkansas Libraries, Fayetteville, Arkansas. Online at http://libinfo.uark.edu/SpecialCollections/ACOVH/GFisher.pdf (accessed January 17, 2007).
“Mrs. Rosemary Fisher, 56, Artist, Longtime Instructor of Pottery at AAC, Dies.” Arkansas Gazette. August 26, 1983, 10A.
Jennifer Atkins Gordeeva
Last Updated: 06/16/2009