The rest of the story...

Here's where I tell you all the stuff that wouldn't fit in a 2-minute TV story.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Twisted Sticks

Al Stewart and one of his creations.
You don't typically wake up in the morning thinking you want or even need a carved walking stick.  At least most people don't.  Then you see Al Stewart's work, and you wonder how you can live without one.

Al seems to be about as unlikely an artist as you might meet.  At least on the surface.  Remember I've worked in ad agencies and in television where creative people have that certain look.  Call it agency chic.

Not Al.

Al is a retired maintenance manager.  He lives on in a regular house in a regular, semi-rural neighborhood and he and his wife attend craft shows.

But then he takes out a knife or a dremel or some other tool and starts carving and you start thinking about lessons learned from book covers and judging.

This stick has a rare, crossing vine mark
Al looks at a piece of root at the end of a stick and sees an elephant, or a fish, or a giraffe.

He pointed out all the options to me as we shot footage for the TV story on Fox.  All I saw was a root on the end of the stick.

It's not all about money

I have to mention that I'm amazed at the pattern that's developing in my John Carlin's Virginia interviewees.  They are not motivated by money.  They just want to keep doing what they are doing.

Raw sticks with vine marks.
Al is afraid to sell his works on Ebay, where he cold get more money, because he's concerned he won't be able to find enough sticks.  What would he do with his time, should he run out?

Like others I've interviewed of late, it's more important to be able to keep doing what they are doing, than to have more money.  Whether it's Wayne Henderson who sells a guitar for $5,000 that he could sell for $40,000,  Nancy Weekly, who works 12 hours on a bracelet and could get $200 for it, but sells it for $80 -- about minimum wage, or Al who gets less than $100 (typically though some go for much more) for his rare creations -- it's the same story every time.

Videographer Curt Schruth shoots video in Al's garage.
In each case, it's clear that the product he or she is producing is a part of them.  They couldn't live as happily without making guitars, jewelry or walking sticks.

That's probably true for many people.  And I'm betting there are many more who spend their entire lives searching for that single passion that, like the vines on Al's saplings, can entwine itself around one's life, needs, personality -- whatever.

So here's to people with a talent, a passion, and the sense to recognize its true value.

If you would like to contact Al, e-mail me at

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