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The Mountain Made Gallery Blog

Wire Bonsai Tree Sculptures by Sarah Jane Kennedy

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Wire Bonsai Trees

Bean’s Bonsai Studio’s Wire Bonsai Trees

Today there are many artists that use interesting kinds of materials to make wonderful art. Wire crafting has become one of the most uncommon “common”  items used in making art sculptures.

Sarah Jane Kennedy (Bean’s Bonsai Studio) creates free-standing wire bonsai trees that are crafted (twisted by hand) from 100’s of individual strands of wire using only simple hand tools, and beads.

Her wire bonsai trees are unique and different than anything we have ever seen. Here at Mountain Made we believe that Sarah Jane is an upcoming master of her craft.

Sarah Jane uses a combination of copper wire, along with colorful beads in all shapes, colors and sizes to create her wonderfully whimsical sculptures.

Each tree made from individual pieces of wire and selected beads. Then each branch is twisted by hand using simple tools and Sarah Jane’s natural creativity.

She then installs every tree on a base made of stone, wood or some other found object to create an one-of-a-kind piece of art. Her imaginative creations are often in the shape of magnificent maple trees decked out in colorful beads.

Wire Bonsai: A Modern Take

The practice of creating bonsai trees from wire, known as “wire bonsai”, is a relatively modern adaptation of the traditional art of bonsai.

The traditional art of bonsai originated in China over a thousand years ago and was later adopted and refined by the Japanese.

In traditional bonsai, living trees are grown, pruned, shaped, and trained to grow in miniature form, often resembling mature, full-sized trees. This is achieved through a variety of techniques, including expert trimming, root reduction, and wiring.

Wire bonsai is a contemporary twist on this ancient art form. Instead of using living trees, artists use wire to create miniature tree sculptures.

These wire trees can be incredibly detailed, mimicking the intricate shapes and forms of real trees. The wire used can vary in type, including copper, aluminum, and steel, among others.

The techniques for creating wire bonsai are different from those used in traditional bonsai but share the same principles of using balance, proportion, and aesthetics.

Artists like Sarah Jane bend, twist, and shape strands of wire to create the trunk, branches, and sometimes even leaves. Some artists also incorporate beads, stones, or other materials to represent leaves or even fruits.

While wire bonsai is not a replacement for the traditional Japanese art, it has found its own unique niche among art lovers and those interested in miniature sculptures.

Sarah Jane’s wire bonsai is a fascinating blend of traditional bonsai artistry and modern creativity. Her works allows for a new level of expression while paying homage to this ancient art form.

About Sarah Jane Kennedy

“A horticulturist by trade and artist by heart, I was diagnosed at a young age with a rare form of breast cancer.  During a very difficult and emotional recovery, I was inspired by a piece of art created over 40 years ago by my great grandmother Jean. I began handcrafting unique wire bonsai trees just as my great grandmother had many years before.”

She goes on to say, “What makes my heart sing? My son, nature, and the beautiful mountains that surround us!”


We invite you come by the gallery, and see her wonderful artwork for yourself > Mountain Made Art Gallery

WNC Chainsaw Artist Chris Markey Carves Uncommon Bear Sculptures

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Chris Markey Jr., Master Woodcarver and Chainsaw Artist

“Art is 10% talent and 90% inspiration”

Here at Mountain Made, we strongly believe that new techniques can help recreate and reinvigorate such time honored traditions as wood carving.

So here in the Blue Ridge Mountains, you can find inspiration all around us. And this is why we feel Chris Markey Jr., Master Chainsaw Artist does such a wonderful job carving his original bear sculptures.

Christopher Markey Jr. -Master Woodcarver and Chainsaw Artist

Christopher Markey Jr. -Master Woodcarver and Chainsaw Artist

According to Chris Markey, wood speaks to him in a way that synthetic materials simply cannot. “It calls to me on a primal level, and it helps connect me to nature. That’s why my saying at the shop is: ‘We make art that reconnects people to their roots.’

What began as a simple hobby business has since grown into a fulltime operation. Dealing primarily in chainsaw carving, it’s no surprise that this rustic and rugged, yet beautiful and tasteful artform calls to people of all sorts. Every tree is a treasure chest of unique grain patterns and rings.

Chris says, “I can think of no better way to honor it than to transform this once-living material into outdoors-inspired artwork. Markey & Son is a family owned and operated business, proud to serve Western North Carolina and surrounding areas by offering original chainsaw sculptures, as well as custom art and décor.”

He goes on to explain that their heirloom quality carvings have been sold to collectors all around the country.

What is Chainsaw Carving?

Chainsaw carving is a rapidly growing art form that merges the modern technology of chainsaws with the ancient practice of woodcarving.

Origins: The earliest records of chainsaw artists date back to the 1950s. Notable pioneers include Ray Murphy, who in 1952 used his father’s chainsaw to carve his name into wood, and Ken Kaiser, who in 1961 crafted 50 carvings for the “Trees of Mystery.”

Evolution of the Art Form:
Chainsaw carving began in the 1950s, with artists like Ray Murphy and Ken Kaiser being among the pioneers. The art form gained significant traction in the 1980s, with events like the Lumberjack World Championships providing a platform for artists to showcase their skills.

Techniques and Tools:
Chainsaw carving requires a combination of traditional woodcarving techniques and the power of a chainsaw. The chainsaw allows for rapid removal of large sections of wood, while traditional tools can be used for finer details.

Special chainsaw blades and chains have been developed specifically for carving. These “guide bars” have small noses, enabling artists to create detailed carvings that would be challenging with standard equipment.

Modern Chainsaw Carving:
The art form is not just about speed; many chainsaw carvers produce intricate and detailed works of art that can rival traditional sculptures.

Such attention to detail can seen in the works of Chris Markey Jr….

Chris was raised in rural Michigan where his love of carving began at a very young age as he regularly passed the time whittling, axe carving, and leather carving. In time, Chris developed a passion for rustic and flat-plane carving that has inspired his style and methods to this day.

He was exposed to power carving his whole life, as his family’s business offered wood-carved sign services. He continued to sculpt and carve with a variety of mediums and methods before discovering his passion for chainsaw art.


We invite you to come by and check out Chris’s chainsaw carvings for yourself > Mountain Made Art Gallery in the Histroic Grove Arcade in downtown Asheville NC

Experience the Colorful World of Polymer Clay Jewelry with Lori Axelrod

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Handcrafted Polymer Clay Jewelry
by Lori Axelrod

We invite you to come by the Mountain Made gallery (in downtown Asheville) this Saturday, August 12, from 12 PM to 3 PM, for a live art demo!

Imagine a realm where vibrant colors, intricate designs, and tactile experiences converge, transporting you to a universe of endless artistic possibilities. This is the world of Lori Axelrod, an Asheville-based artist who breathes life into her unique vision through fine art jewelry crafted from polymer clay.

Lori’s artistry is a mesmerizing blend of polymer clay with bold colors where her creative spirit and voice come alive.

It’s not just the vivid colors and captivating details that draw you in; it’s the tactile interaction with her pieces’s geometric patterns and the boundless expression her work offers that leaves gallery visitors fascinated.

Lori’s inspiration stems from the heart of Western North Carolina, surrounded by breathtaking natural beauty. The tranquillity of the local mountains fuels her creativity, and this happiness is vividly reflected in her art.

Each jewelry piece she crafts is a wonderful blend of colors, designs, and textures. They aren’t mere accessories; they’re real statement pieces that promise to elevate any attire.

From necklaces to earrings, every item in Lori’s collection is handcrafted with precision, resulting in lightweight yet delightful accessories.

Collections like her Black & White Jewelry, Infinity Necklaces, and Pendant Necklaces stand as a testament to her dedication. Each piece, with its delightful variations in shapes and colors, is as unique as its wearer.

Why Wear Polymer Clay Jewelry?

Lightweight: Perfect for all-day wear, especially for those with sensitive ears.
Durable: Made to last, they don’t crack, chip, or break easily.
Unique: Each piece creates a bold statement with a minimalist design.
Handmade: Each piece carries a personal touch, adding to its uniqueness.
Strong: Designed without breaking or deforming, allowing for intricate designs.

Join us at Mountain Made Gallery this Saturday, August 12, from 12 PM to 3 PM, for a live art demo where Lori will craft one of her colorful jewelry pieces in real-time.

Engage with her and find a piece that resonates with you, and let her wearable art become an integral part of your unique lifestyle. Don’t miss out; we invite you to come by (directions to Mountain Made)  and find your statement piece today!

Wood Bowls with Holes? 4th Generation Woodturning by Mike McKinney

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Handcrafted Wood Bowls by Mike McKinney

In this week’s post, Mountain Made gallery is happy to share with you the unique wood art of one of our newest additions to our gallery of local woodturners, Mike McKinney.

Mike McKinney is a fourth generation woodworker who had an opportunity to work in the shop with both his dad and grandfather.

His grandfather Paul, was his hero and was always pleased when Mike was with him in his shop.  “Granddaddy made me a workbench from an old wooden crate, he attached a V-block for planning against, gave me a Staley #4 plane, a hammer, all the nails I wanted, a handsaw and scraps of wood.  He was happy for any time I might be able to spend with him.”

Mike McKinney

“Mike’s Daddy, David, was a furniture builder.  He bought a Delta lathe in 1960 which he intended to turn spindles and rounds with.  He began to see bowls turned (Rudy Osolink was his inspiration) and became an accomplished side grain turner,”

As part of as part of our continuing series “Inside the Artist’s Studio” , Mike has answered some of the most frequently asked questions people have about him and his work.



As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?

Probably something outdoors, I love to hunt and fish, and I probably thought about becoming a game warden or a forester, a carpenter like my dad and granddad. I never even considered being boxed up inside a building.

When did you first realize you wanted to be an artist?

I’m not sure I ever wanted to be an artist, especially when the conventional thought was an artist drew pictures or painted. My grandmother painted some in college at Limestone College, but I never associated it with that. When I started turning, in 1993 I found it to be very mesmerizing and called for both skill and form.

How long does it take you to create one of your pieces?

I really don’t know, a small bowl can be turned quickly but you must do the prep work, and later the sanding and finishing. I used to guess about three hours for the entire piece, that may be a little too much given my skill level is better and repetition helps one’s time involvement.

What is your schedule like when you’re working?

Generally, I’m in my shop by 8 to 9:00 in the morning. I usually have more than one project going on at a time so it can vary all over the board.

Finishing projects usually get first billing, then maybe I rough out a new piece, natural edge pieces are different than roughed out bowls, due to the fact the shape, form, thickness is complete with these pieces.

On the other hand, if I’m roughing our salad bowls that need to be re-turned later are usually in block form and it’s one after the other.

Other times I may need additional wood in the shop. So off to the wood yard I go with the mission in mind of bringing back blocks of wood, ready to turn.
There are also times I go outside my shop and home to look at a wood source or possibly bring back logs or chunks for turning.

Wood is very deceiving and you may have problems inside the wood you were not expecting. The best case is you will change course and make something more beautiful than you would have dreamed of. The worst case you will recognize it was “firewood” when you started and it still is … just smaller.

What would you say is your most interesting quirk while working?

I try to listen to music all the time and change the Pandora channels from time to time. My favorite Pandora channels in the order of favor are Mac Wiseman, Vern Gosdin, Neil Diamond, James Taylor, 60’s Oldies, and classical from time to time. If you come by the shop while I’m playing Mac you may hear me singing or whistling away … but come on in anyway, I won’t sing or whistle if you are here.

Where do you get your ideas or inspiration for your artwork?

Sometimes, like a writer, I’ll get out of bed and make some notes, or sometimes being out and about I’ll see a piece of clay or glass and I try to think what it would be like in wood.

I try to never plagiarize but I love to read and better my technique and make my form better or my work better off the tools while at the same time taking advantage of the wood species recognizable qualities.

What do you like to do when you’re not working on your art?

I love my wife Vanessa and enjoy our time together, I have two wonderful daughters, and two great sons-in-law and probably the two best grandsons who have ever mashed mud, so I love to be with my family.

Hunting and fishing used to be very important to me, but not so much anymore, I also enjoy our church and our participation in our church community.

What was one of the most surprising things you learned about yourself while making art?

The surprise of my vocation is that there is just not enough time to do all I want to do, as well as I want to do it. When you spend as much time doing anything as I do, one must feel like their time and energy is not being wasted.

How many art pieces do you think you have created?

I have finished over 1400 bowls, urns, lidded vessels, platters, etc. I have no idea how many ornaments, bottle stoppers, tops and things like that I have done. I have also done some repairs and architectural turning and my goal is to be a better, more knowledgeable turner when I’m through with my project.

Which ones were your favorites?

Mostly, Vanessa has captured some of my favorites, firsts, etc. I have turned some commission pieces that may be among my favorites, and I can think of another piece that is out of our control that is pretty fantastic.

How do you decide on which ideas to develop?

Usually, I’m replacing inventory, but new development may come from an idea or thought, a commission, a piece of Native American Indian art or a natural edge furniture piece.

Do you hear from your fans? What kind of things do they say?

Yes, I hear from fans or folks that have my pieces. It’s always good unless something has gone wrong or if they have used a bark edge bowl for a salad bowl, or a young person or their dad decided the bowl was about the right size for their ball.

Some folks have no maximum capacity of how many Mike McKinney pieces they can own, others collect many pieces by various turners, others love to give it away, but I don’t think folks continue to brag or buy your work unless they like it a lot.

My buyers also get more acquainted with good and bad work, it’s up to me to do better work if I want to sell more to the folks who have it. Unless they like it, a lot and believe it is of more quality than other pieces they won’t buy more for any reason.

What do you think makes good art?

First and foremost is form. Then in any order, are presentation, finish, and completion.

There are other qualities that show ability, skill, and care and all these things make a difference to the purchasing owner and whether the piece may be an heirloom or a just a piece in the yard sale right after their demise.

Some pieces I’ve done don’t look nearly as good to me as they did 25 years ago, but practice, study, learning should always make better products later in one’s career.




Unleash Your Inner Artist with Sharpie Tie-Dye Hats –
Another “No Talent Required” Public Art Event

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Another “No Talent Required” Public Art Event

Tie-Dye Hats

Brighten Your Summer: Come Make a Mountain Tie-Dye Hat using Ink Markers

Are you looking for a fun and creative way to sit down in the cool and entertain the kiddies for bit?

Then look no further!

We invite you to come by and take a break inside Mountain Made Art Gallery this Saturday from 12-3 PM for another of our fabulous “No Talent Required” Public Art Projects!

Here at Mountain Made Gallery, a “No Talent Required” event is a type of public art event that encourages everyone (even YOU), to participate in creating art, regardless of your artistic abilities or experience.

The main focus of our events is showing the public the the process of creating art, expressing their feelings, and just having fun.

Ink Marker Tie-Dye

Did you know that the art of Sharpie (TM) or ink marker tie-dying on hats is a trend that’s taking the fashion world by storm?

Okay, maybe you won’t this charming craft hitting the runways yet, but Sharpie (TM) tie-dying is a simple way to transform a plain hat into a vibrant masterpiece.

The process involves using Sharpie markers and rubbing alcohol to create unique, tie-dye-like patterns.

The best part? Anyone can do!

How It Works

First come by Mountain Made Gallery, suite #123 inside the Grove Arcade, located in downtown Asheville, NC.

To start, we provide you with a plain, white hat, along with ink markers in various colors, rubbing alcohol, and an eyedropper or spray bottle if prefer.

At our demo table, you can grab a hat then start sketching out your designs with markers.

Remember this a “No Talent Required” event, which means whatever you want to draw is fine with us … well almost anything. Remember you’re going to be the person wearing that hat in public!

Once you’re satisfied with your design, you start dripping rubbing alcohol onto it using the eyedropper. The alcohol will cause the ink to spread, creating a beautiful tie-dye effect!

There are a lot of benefits of using bright colored markers. Not only will they make your hat stand out, but they can you feel happier and more positive (what everyone needs this summer).

Bright colors can also stimulate your brain, making you feel more alert and energized! Don’t be afraid to experiment with different colors and patterns.

Finally, after you are done, please take a quick snapshot of you in hat (in front of Mountain Made) and share your “hat art” with your friends and family on social media.

Ready to give it a try? Then come by Mountain Made from Noon to 3PM, Saturday, July 29, 2023

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