When the Agfa factory closed in Pisgah Forest in 2002, 270 people lost their jobs. Tim and Donna Frady were among them.
After nearly 20 years with the plant, through its ownership by Dupont, Sterling, and Agfa, the Fradys, who had served in various capacities from floor floater to office manager, found themselves looking for new careers. There weren’t many jobs around, especially in manufacturing. So the couple decided to think a little more creatively.
They had always loved “junkin’,” says Tim, scouring flea markets, yard sales, and junkyards for “anything that looks different and cool.” And although he says he’s not an artist, Tim has always enjoyed making things with his hands. The old tractor parts, farm tools, and abandoned pieces of furniture the couple had been collecting and storing in the shed turned out to be just the materials they needed for a fresh start: Rustic Remakes, a handmade garden ornament and furniture business that the Fradys operate from their home in Pisgah Forest.
Tim’s the primary designer. He can turn an old iron bed frame into a new garden bench or a bunch of rusty saw blades into a decorative garden flower. Birds and other creatures emerge from old pieces of rebar, car parts and hub caps. Frady disects his materials and welds them back together, not always knowing when he starts what he will create. “Sometimes a piece will sit there for two days or two months before I figure out what to do with it,” he says. But eventually he’ll find the right pieces in his stash of discarded materials, which Donna keeps organized. Although she doesn’t weld, Donna, who has a background in ceramics, will often create a design that Tim will then assemble. While Rustic Remakes is a fulltime job for Tim, Donna continues to work as an office manager and handles the business aspects of the operation.
Some of Frady’s pieces are functional — an indoor table, for example, with the wheel off a gate valve for a base and a piece of salvaged lumber for a top. But many are whimsical, decorative pieces that the couple sell primarily through craft fairs locally and throughout the state. Tim has a knack for seeing the potential in a piece, like those old metal lawn chairs you often see around. “Sometimes the seat and back are good but the rest is gone away,” he says. That he can work with. He’ll weld something else in place of the legs. He also has a particular talent for creating faces out of unexpected objects: lug-nut eyes, handlebar mouths, car door handle beaks. None of it’s planned in advance. “I don’t have a clue what I’m going to make when I start,” Tim says. “I just toss it out there and see where it goes.” There’s a sense of humor evident in many of Tim’s creations (the knight, Sir Rustalot, for example), but others show his artistic bent, such as the chairs made from old beds, the colorful bottle trees, and indoor furniture.
Although some of Frady’s pieces feature color, they’re not painted. Old industrial-sized juice barrels provide some cheerful yellows and reds to some of the items. A clear coat over the top is the only layer added, just to protect against further rusting.
Globalization hit this part of the state hard. While people here used to make things and send them all over the world, now most things you can buy at stores were made somewhere else. Tim takes pride in the fact that he’s able to make a quality product from materials that were made in the US long ago. It’s ironic, he says, that those inexpensive, made-in-China garden ornaments you can buy so readily in big retail stores won’t withstand being left outdoors for long periods, whereas the rusty old tractor parts he uses in some of his creations are tough as nails. “Every piece we use has a story,” he says. And reusing it makes it part of a new story, another opportunity to start over.
See a gallery of Rustic Remakes work and find out their upcoming craft show schedule at www.rusticremakes.com. You can also meet them at the Transylvania County Handcrafters Guild Craft Show and Sale, August 12-13, at Brevard College. For details call 828-862-8554.