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Homemade handcrafts

Trimble library exhibit features
Smith family’s unique creations

By Konnie McCollum
Contributing Writer


BEDFORD, Ky. (September 2006) – Creating beautiful pieces of fine artwork is hard enough by itself, but making the tools to create the works is a feat all its own. One Trimble County, Ky., man, Gus Smith, has been doing just that for many years. His artwork, along with artwork from the other talented members of his family, is currently on display at the Trimble County Public Library in Bedford. The opening reception for the Smith family exhibit was held Aug. 22. The exhibit will run through at least September at the library.

Gus Smith art

Photo by Kim Aldridge

Gus Smith and his four children have a
variety of items on display at the
Trimble County Public Library.

“This is truly a unique exhibit that everyone should come to see,” said Vickie Eldridge, president of the Trimble County Arts Council. The council tries to set up an exhibit each month at the library, but because this one is so unique, it will be staying for awhile, she said.
Smith, 70, and a retired tobacco farmer, has been turning and carving wood for more than 50 years. His beautiful pieces of work on display include unique bowls and teacups with hand-carved spoons made out of rare spaulted maple found on his farm. What is amazing is that Smith made the lathe, carving knives and other tools he uses for his creations.
He said he has always been creative, and he thinks he was just born with the ability. “I was always a homebody when I was a kid, and when everyone else went to town, I would stay behind. I always wanted them to bring me some nails and a tool, instead of the usual candy others would ask for.”
He said he just looks at equipment and his mind starts turning and thinking about how it is made and how he can copy it. “I was just a poor farmer and had to make much of the tools I needed.”
Apparently, he is known around Trimble County for his amazing ability to create machinery and equipment. About 32 years ago, Smith made his own tractor that is known as the “Gustor” tractor. His daughter, Terri, said he would simply go to the parts stores look at the ones he needed and then go home and make them.
He also made his first lathe, which runs from the power take-off on the tractor. Smith said he had never turned wood before that and had no training; it was just something he wanted to do so he figured out how to make the lathe. “I made the lathe by trial and error.”
Over the years, he experimented with various wood and techniques until he learned how best to create his beautiful pieces. He said he messed up on the choice of wood at first until he learned how to select the right type and get it dried and cured properly.
Smith also hand-made the carving knives he uses for his hand-carved items. He said he went to a fancy knife show once in Louisville, Ky., but they were asking too much money for their knives, so he went home and made his own.
It appears as though Smith passed that creativity down to his children as well. Each of his four children has been gifted with creative talent, and some of their works are on display in the exhibit as well.
“Mom and Dad didn’t place a lot of emphasis on being creative. We just all took it for granted that was how things were done,” Terri Smith said.
She said that, to them, making things just “seemed like the logical and right thing to do.” The family didn’t realize that others are not as creative.
Terri works with ceramics, writes poetry and paints special boxes. Examples of her work are on display in the exhibit. Her sister, Karen, works with acrylics and watercolors to create amazing modern art paintings. Karen also makes jewelry, and her paintings and jewelry are included in the exhibit.
Brother, Steve, refurbishes antique horse drawn farm equipment, and pictures of his work are included in the show. He is also writing a book on the history of Trimble County.
Tim, the youngest sibling, is also a woodturner, and some of his work, which differs from the type that Gus creates, is at the library.
Mabel, wife and mother, is also creative. She has garnered some attention throughout Trimble County as a wonderful quilter. Some of her eye-catching quilts and handmade jackets are on display.
The actual exhibit at the library is unusual in that it is a red bud tree with beans that hang off of it. Various items that the Smith family has created also hang from it. Along one wall of the library are also more artwork and creations from the family, including crocheted creations by Mabel and framed poetry by Terri.

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