couple of years ago, after Kim Bryant
and her husband, Doug, retired,
"We were bored, so we started building things," Kim said.
of the first projects was a set of chairs for their deck. Doug built
the chairs, and Kim said, "I think I can carve something on it." She had
a Dremel rotary tool that, up until that time, she had never used; with
repeated uses, though, her skills "just get better and better."
those first deck chairs, Kim carved the outline of a dolphin on the
front and the back. She has since moved on to carving things like a sea
turtle, and lots of mermaids. "I'm just tickled by people: they want
different mermaids, different sizes -- one even wanted a mermaid wearing
sells her carvings, now, and she focuses on "coastal animals and birds
-- because that's what people want." She did try a buck deer peeking
through oak leaves, inspired by pieces she's seen from carver Jerry
Mifflin, one of her inspirations. In Kim's coastal Alabama area,
however, when people have seen that piece in a store, "I've heard
everybody loves it, 'but it doesn't go with where we live.'"
herself loves to do large carvings, such as doors and panels. "I do
huge vignettes and get it detailed. It takes a great deal of thinking it
through to get the different levels." In some ways, she says, it's like
her previous career as a dog groomer (Doug is a retired veterinarian):
"When I groomed dogs, I'd do step-by-step sculpting: I sculpted the dog
into a pattern. It's a beautiful thing when it's done right." Similarly,
with her woodworking, "Even though it's a piece of furniture, it's
still a piece of art."
started out having Doug make all of the pieces she carves upon, but
moved toward a millwork shop that now produces doors for her, allowing
her to work with the Chilean mahogany they provide. Of course, Kim says,
"I've got four big panels from the millwork shop screaming for me to
work on them, but I haven't had time to do it" -- largely because of the
time taken up with the handyman business for condos she and Doug are
husband and I have always worked together," Kim said. When she saw a
picture of a bed in a magazine, "I showed him the picture and said, 'I
want you to make me this bed.' We went out in the shop and drew things
on the chalkboard; we had no plans."
pieces like the bed, and its large panels, Doug also helps move things
around and get them in the right position for Kim to do her carving.
"I'm not ambidextrous, so I have to have it in the right position to
work on," she said. "It's important to think it through and plan it out
before you start."
uses the Domino jointer in his building and, while Kim does a little
bit of hand carving, most of her work is with power tools. "I was a dog
groomer for years, and it took its toll," "she said. "Regular hand tools
require so much hand strength, and my hands start to cramp. There's
also the instant gratification."
uses a Shofu dental tool for much of her carving: "I had cleaned dogs'
teeth for years, and my husband was a veterinarian; he said, 'Yeah, if
it'd carve a dog's teeth, it'd sure carve wood."'
also built Kim a cyclone vacuum; for smaller projects, she said, she
doesn't need to wear a mask -- unless she's working with Spanish cedar,
one of her favorite woods. "It has an oil in it, and even with a mask,
you end up tasting it on your lips, tasting bitter," she said. But, when
it's used outside, bugs don't bother the Spanish cedar, it takes a
stain well, "and it carves beautiful," Kim said.
does occasionally paint her pieces, particularly the smaller, jewelry
pieces she does because they get her noticed -- and are easier to
transport than the large panels she likes to work on. The jewelry, she
says, tends to look better when painted. Kim has also been a painter
herself, working in acrylic and
decorative painting. She once spent a
week at a Las Vegas workshop "with the guy who did the Bellagio; it's
the only training I ever had in anything." Mostly, Kim says, "I learn
visually. If I see how somebody else does it, I can usually do it."
for the painting, she has done three original paintings, "but for me
they just took so long!" she said. Also, "It wasn't as relaxing to me as
the carving. There's something about the smell of the wood, the way it
feels, the way it responds. I just really love wood."