Article by Karen Nazor Hill, Chattanooga Times-Free Press
Local artist William Sutherland has the perfect formula for making people happy. He makes creative pieces of art from recycled materials and sells them at reasonable prices.
Sutherland, 33, of Soddy-Daisy, makes birdhouses, wall hangings, picture frames and Christmas ornaments using mostly discarded wood from old school buildings and barns. He also incorporates old doorknobs, door stops and tin into his pieces, which include birdhouses and wall hangings.
A professional painter with the Hamilton County Department of Education’s maintenance department, Sutherland’s favorite pastime of creating works of art manifested into a second job, owner of Country Creek Relics, his woodworking business.
“Because I work in the maintenance department, I often see stuff they’re throwing away,” Sutherland said. “When they tore down Soddy Elementary School a few years ago, I knew I could do something with the wood that they were going to throw away.”
Sutherland said he also used some of the school’s hardware, including doorknobs and door stops, as perches on his birdhouses.
“Every piece I make has a story behind it,” he said. “I tell every customer where the wood came from and what I know about its history.”
Sutherland’s passion for woodworking dates to his childhood.
“I grew up around it,” he said. “I made a chair from a tree for my mother when I was a kid, and it lasted for about 20 years.”
But, until recently, it was mostly a hobby, he said.
“I made things for my wife, mother and our neighbors, and one thing led to another. I hit a few craft shows and sold out.”
But it wasn’t until he opened a booth at Chattanooga Market that he realized the potential for his handmade merchandise.
“I cleaned house at the market,” he said, noting that he sold most everything.
“People are also blown away with my prices,” he said. “Affordability is important. Why make something if people can’t afford to buy it? If I can put a smile on somebody’s face, it gives me enjoyment.”
His pieces sell for $6 to $95.
Additionally, Sutherland takes pride that none of his creations are identical.
“What I make depends on the materials I have. I’ve started going to junk sales, and I buy old hinges, nails, anything that I can incorporate into my work.”
Sutherland said he carries around a sketchbook to document ideas.
“I never know when an idea will come to me, and when it does, I want to remember it,” he said.