From Dead Wood To Works Of Art

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Down and dead wood from the Tonto National Forest becomes stunning, artistic furniture at the hands of Ron Barnes.

Barnes, who makes his home in Whispering Pines with his wife, Mary, operates One of a Kind Custom Furniture.

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Ron Barnes came to Payson to pursue a living in jewelry making, but changed directions after visiting a Sedona gallery and seeing the works of functional art that could be created from the area's wood. This chair is an example of Barnes' work.

"I've always been into woodwork," Barnes said, adding he began learning his craft as a hobby when he was a child.

This is his first venture into furniture making. He had a gallery in Telluride, Colo., for about 10 years. It was something to occupy his retirement years. His formal training was in mechanical technology. Barnes was a guided missile mechanic for the U.S. Air Force, worked in the aerospace industry and then in electrical and refrigeration contracting in California.

Barnes and his wife came to the Rim Country in late 1999. He planned to pursue another long-standing interest: jewelry making.

"There didn't seem to be much of a local market for it, though," Barnes said.

Exploring the sales potential in galleries in Sedona, he came across what he calls "freeform furniture" sculpted from wood.

"It just blew me away," he said, "But I knew it was something I could do -- especially after I saw the prices the artist was asking."

He tried his hand at a couple of small tables and that started him in the business in 2000.

Much of the wood he uses he collects from the area forest, though he also works with pieces from California and the Northwest.

"Each log is hand selected for its density, strength and individual characteristics, bend, twists and burls," Barnes said.

No two pieces are ever alike.

"Each piece is custom designed to fit the client's needs and is handcrafted based on the feel of the wood and the natural flow of the grain," he said.

Barnes said he has probably sculpted about 1,000 pieces since starting the business. He works on multiple projects, but hardly anything takes more than two weeks. The exceptions are dining sets and bars, which are among his larger pieces. His smallest works are clocks.

Barnes' sculpted freeform furniture is in a Sedona gallery and another in Scottsdale. He is also one of the artists with work offered at Constance Artiger's When Cowboys Dream shop in Payson.

"Most of my sales have been by word-of-mouth, through the galleries and advertising in the Roundup," he said. However, he will soon go online with his work, creating a website to showcase and sell his furnishings.

Barnes makes all sizes of tables, chairs, stools, fireplace mantles, bars and benches.

To find out more, call Ron Barnes at One of a Kind Custom Furniture, (928) 474-5480. He will be available for new orders after Oct. 10.

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