The Curiosity Shop

Smithfield wood carver
turns hobby into business

By Laraine Staples
Staff Writer

SMITHFIELD, Ky. – The Curiosity Shop is located in Smithfield Ky., just down the road from Our Best Restaurant and across from the post office.

Les Bryant

Photo by Laraine Staples

Les Bryant poses beside one of his dollhouse creations at his Curiosity shop in Smithfield, Ky. Bryand began making various wooden objects after being downsized out of his corporate job a few years ago. His handiwork can be seen outside the Oldham County History Center in La Grange, Ky., in the form of a miniature train, steamboat and antique truck.

The house and garage are surrounded by a white picket fence. Everything is in its place and so well cared for. This is the home and shop of Les and Cindy Bryant.
It looks like a dollhouse inside and out. Les Bryant always enjoyed creating things and working with wood. He refinishes furniture and enjoys building dollhouses and miniatures.
A few years back when he lost his job to corporate downsizing, he and his wife, Cindy, found it necessary to downsize as well.
"We sold our large house in La Grange and moved out here where, as usual, the wife fell in love with the house and the husband with the garage," said Bryant. "I moved my tools to a shop in the back of the garage and started refinishing furniture."
He rented space at the Antique Ranch in Ballardsville for about 2 1/2 years before downsizing again and moving everything into the garage.
The shop is mostly filled with stuff Bryant enjoys collecting, such as dollhouses, stained glass windows, hand-painted cupboards and benches, bookcases, an artist's easel, hand-poured gypsum plaster figures, mahogany reproductions and unique lawn furniture and ornamental concrete.
His most fun and largest piece in the garage is a Model T Ford. It's a Model T frame and engine, but the front seat is two leather chairs from his wife's office, and he made the fenders for it.
It is a great conversational piece and might remind one of the Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. But Bryant says, "It runs great!"
Bryant's latest endeavors have been for the La Grange Historical Society. When he read about the History Museum being built last year, he contacted Patricia Michael, the society's executive director, to see if they would be interested in one of his dollhouses.
They agreed to display it. Patricia asked him if he could create other wooden sculptures. He did, resulting in his creations of a steamboat, train and farm truck, which today sit outside in the museum yard.
The theme for the museum is transportation - "Moving ahead in time." The structures were originally set on the ground, but later he created the big steel pedestals so that they could be better displayed and so no one would be hurt playing on them.
Bryant is currently working on a sign that hung on the Interurban Train Depot in La Grange. The depot has been torn down, but a replica is on display in the museum.
The Interurban Depot served the Louisville and Eastern Electric Railroad from 1901-1911. The sign was believed to have been removed in the 1930s and then used by the Abbott Brothers.
It measures 10 feet by two feet and is constructed of porcelain on steel. On the left side is inscribed, "FE Wagner AM National Bank Building, Louisville, KY." On the right side, it reads, "Groute Brich Paint, Finnish work, Beaver Falls, PA."
Bryant chose to build a picture frame-type display that looks like a train track to house the sign so that both the front and back side of the sign can be viewed.
"He has been a pleasure to work with," said Michael. "We are very fortunate to have access to his talents."
Bryant is also working on the dollhouse for a private collector in Eminence, Ky. The collector's father built the house for her when she was a child, and Bryant is refinishing and repairing it.
"You should see the miniature antique furniture she has to go into it," said Bryant. "It's amazing."

• To view Bryant's work, visit the Oldham County History Museum, 106 N. Second Ave., La Grange, Ky.

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