– The following first appeared in The Floyd Press on June 19, 2014.
Woodworker Ernest Bryant had a steady stream of visitors for the 2014 Floyd Artisan Trail. Tour traffic has been growing every year, Bryant said. This year visitors to Bryant’s home studio came from Pennsylvania, Tennessee, North Carolina, from all over Virginia and as far away as Colorado.
Along with a tour of his workshop – where he creates custom design furniture, traditional and fantasy wood carvings and antique reproductions – visitors also enjoyed strolling through a tree stump sculpture garden and an outdoor “Wood Zoo” gallery on the property that Bryant shares with artist Charlotte Atkins. “I’ve been dragging wood out of the woods all my life,” said Bryant, as he pointed out a bank of locust stump sculptures from trees that came down during
Bryant’s love of wood and his enthusiasm for working with it is evident everywhere in his surroundings. He speaks with awe about looking at the sculpture gallery in the moonlight and laments the loss of hemlock trees from the
woolly adelgid infestation. He points out patterns made by insects on one tree limb and describes how his pet longhorn cow (which he calls a solar-powered lawn-mower) polished another smooth by rubbing against it.
“When I was about 5 years old I got a Handy Andy toolkit for Christmas. It had a hammer, saw and mallet in it. I’ve been doing this ever since,” remembered Bryant, who was recently selected as the Jacksonville Center’s 2104 featured artist, a program that honors some
of Floyd’s most renowned artists that are scattered throughout the hills and hollers of the county.
“I’ve been to Floyd before and love to do the Artisan Trails,” said a visitor from Lynchburg who was ready to experience Bryant’s Wood Zoo.
Many of Bryant’s pieces, like this one titled “Closet Full of Fools,” are elaborate works that grow over time and reflect his whimsical sense of humor.
Tree stumps are continually being arranged and added to, Bryant said. Some of the locust tree stumps on the backyard bank were supplied by a past Artisan Tour-goer (from Bent Mountain) who appreciated Bryant’s work.
Atkins explained that the tree sculpture garden started with the felling of a pine tree that left a stump, which became a base to hold other objects, like this mirrored garden globe that is majestically held by one tree stump and reflects the Bryant/Atkins homestead.
Bryant calls this locust tree sculpture a Geronimus. The longhorn is either Dixie or Buddy Boy. _________Colleen Redman