Turning logs into masterpieces.

Story by Mari Muzzi            

Despite the intense humidly and heat, a craftsman works with his hand tools to bring his wood creations to life. Wearing jeans, a worn white tee, workers’ gloves, a cap and sunglasses he finishes painting a wooden baby bear statue. Though he works quickly, his work is precise.            

 James Kelske, 41, of Wesley Chapel has been working with wood since he was a teen. From state road 54, drivers can see his wooden bears with sunglasses, pink painted flamingoes and white toothed faced totem poles. There are also wooden turtles with marbled eyes and other various wooden crafts in the yard.            

If customers want it, he said that he can make it.  All they have to do is bring him a picture of what they would like.            

 The idea to start his own business came from being broke one day to then having a friend help him master his wood carving skills in his front yard.           

 “Some people can carve, some can’t. He just kind of picked it up. I could tell he had a knack for it,” Scott Mcallister, of Jenson Beach said.  Mcallister,43, has been crafting wood for twenty years and he helped Kelske develop his carving techniques.           

Kelske takes pride in his work and has a connection to his art.            

 “They (his work) become like kids and have names, personalities. It’s just cool being able to create stuff.” Kelske said. His first crafted piece, a wooden guitar with a clock in the center of it, hangs in his living room above his television set.            

“It is like giving birth to whatever comes to mind” the former construction worker said, when asked about the creative process.            

Kelske no longer has to punch a time clock and values having the freedom to set his own hours, he said.  He can be observed most days working with his large chain saw and other hand tools under or near the large wooden tiki hut in his front yard.  Though, he does set aside some days to relax, do housework and play his guitar. He has been playing the instrument for about six years now and is trying to put a band together.            

Family members support Kelske’s passion for wood crafting.           

 “He has a better outlook on life, now that he can make things,” said his sister Maureen Stockton of Wesley Chapel. The inside of her home is full of her brother’s wooden crafts. She said that she’s not sure where his artistic ability came from.           

“I have difficulty drawing stick figures,” Stockton said. Through, she said that her sons are artistic.           

Kelske lives the life of a true “starving artist” at times, because his income varies from week to week. Some weeks he’ll make 500 and others nothing. But, he is doing what he truly enjoys in life, turning cyprus and palm tree wood into artwork that people can display in their yards and homes, he said.            

 “James is character, he is kind of like a free spirit, like I am,” said Mcallister. A wooden sign with blue painted letters reads “Welcome Free Beer” and is nailed to one of the tiki hut posts and displayed for visitors to see. Though, Kelske said that he’s not a big drunker, he does go out Saturday nights to spend time with friends and share a few drinks.                                    

 As Kelske paints one of his wooden bears, 98 rock music blares from the radio on his work table and a few vehicles pass by and honk their horns. Kelske looks up from his painting and waves.           

They are customs who have bought some of his work, he said while smoking a cigarette. Recently some customers bought wooden turtles and asked if he would sign them. They then sent them up north as gifts.             

“It would be funny, if I ever went on vacation and ran into one of my pieces somewhere,” Kelske said.  Kelske said that he wouldn’t want to do any other kind of work. Crafting wood and playing his guitar are what he values in life. 

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5 Responses to “Turning logs into masterpieces.”

  1. usfadvancedreporting Says:

    A few grammatical errors, but I like this story. My parents have a big carved Tiki guy in the front of their yard made out of a palm tree, so i thought of that when I read this. I knid of want one of the turtle ones he was talking about. Some things were awkward and made me ask why? why is this in the story? they didn’t really add anything to it.

  2. usfadvancedreporting Says:

    i agree, great story. Grammatical errors. I think that you were trying to paint a picture with some of the details but some details are not relevant

  3. Aaron Says:

    Good story, it is nice to see someone loves what they do. I’m glad you mentioned his income.

  4. usfadvancedreporting Says:

    Good details

  5. angela Says:

    where can you buy their stuff?

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