November 15, 2012

Our Neighbors: Jerry Howard makes birdhouses from recycled wood

The rent is cheep, cheep, cheep

By Carol Mills
Staff Writer

LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. — Jerry Howard makes birdhouses and other folk art from recycled wood, including drift, and other materials, such as roots and limbs.

Woodworking is a hobby for Jerry.

“I just like doing it,” he said. “I’ve been in it for years. First piddling with it. My good friend, Barbara Willingham got me into the artisan guild, her and Twyla Money. They talked to me and I joined the artisan guild. Before, I was just making the crafts and not selling them.”

Jerry gets his ideas for his birdhouses and other crafts from different places, including travel destinations.

“I’ll see something and I’ll get a general idea of what I’m going to do and just start working with it. It evolves as you go along. The more that you make, the better idea of how it will turn out, what it will look like. You just get an idea and work with it.”

All his birdhouses are originals; some are decorative and some are functional. They are made to look like fish, frogs, bears, guitars, outhouses, street lights, campers — just about anything. There are not any two alike. He also makes towel holders, bobbleheads, chairs, tables, shelves and much more.

Jerry also collects garden hoes and bricks.

“I’ve got a Hoe House in back with hoes hanging on it. I collected those because it was something different. Nobody else that I know of collects garden hoes. I also collect bricks. I’ve got a whole sidewalk of bricks I’ve gotten from different states.”                                  

Jerry went to trade school and got a certificate in shop maintenance to do electrical and plumbing work and woodworking.

“That’s kind of how I got into this,” he said. “I worked at that awhile and then I got a job offer from Contel Telephone Company. I worked for them and then they sold out to General Telephone Company. I worked with them until Verizon bought GTE out. I took a bite out of retirement and started flipping houses.”

Jerry explained flipping houses was buying repossessed houses from auctions at the Laurel County Courthouse, remodeling them and putting them back on the market.

“Most of this wood came out of houses that I’ve done. I’ve been doing that for about five years now. I also work with other people who do this. I do their maintenance work, the painting, the woodworking stuff. My son works with me. On the side, I work for a company that does FLW Outdoors fishing tournaments.”

Jerry, 65, was born in Leslie County. When he was six years old, the family moved to Laurel County where he graduated from Lily High School. He is married to Brenda and they have three children, Thomas, Jason, and Susanne; and seven grandchildren.

Jerry will have birdhouses and other crafts for sale later this month at Sights and Sounds of Christmas at the London Community Center.

He can be reached at 606-524-8358 or