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BARRY: Getting the idea for something is probably the hardest thing but once the idea is there, I can kinda steam roll it. For example, the current project now actually has started out a little more crude than this, a lot of things come out on a whatever kind of piece of paper I have laying around. Could be a candy wrapper or a... I kinda save all that stuff and, uh, you start out with, okay, this is a, uh, this project is going to be an automobile but it’s gonna be more than that. I’m gonna call it Joy Ride. Uh, so there’s some rough notes... this is, this is actually my second draft, okay, the other one wasn’t quite as fancy. Uh, I can’t draw, as this is pretty evident. Then, as I went through the project I made a to do list. And, this is I don’t know, probably seven or eight pages of things as I did them and I stuck the date on them. Some things have been deleted, some things were added but once I get the idea things start to snowball. And, sometimes some little odds and ends get to be a dead-end but you just kinda move on. So, getting, getting the idea, uh, somebody had made a conver... I was on the phone with somebody the other day and they said something about, uh, I think we were talking about spring peepers and I made something called the grim reaper... grim sweeper I made and it was something about peepers and the idea, I’ve got an idea for something called the grim peeper, make of that what you want. Okay.
BARRY: Once you’ve got the idea you, you, you need materials, uh, I just kinda scrounge but my material list, material cost is almost zero. Uh, I might have to buy a drill or a piece of a tool or a replacement tool if I break something but I’m always on the lookout. What some people see something that’s a bunch of junk, I see gold so to speak. Uh, there’s a whole rack in back of me here, probably in all of that I have invested five bucks, it was all given to me or somebody was gonna throw it away. And, uh, it’s like, you never know with a piece of square tubing, a rod or something, that, that can be turned into just about anything. And, uh, wood, I have a supply of sort of free wood, hard woods if I want that. And, uh, sometimes I have to buy glass, something like that but basically material costs which is another advantage with tabletop stuff, it’s, it’s just about zero. Of course, you don’t want to tell the customer that.
BARRY: Uh, jigs and fixtures, if you need something for alignment, a lot of that is wood or it could be metal or whatever and it’s kind of, uh, jigs and fixtures, down and dirty. They just have to do the job. What you have to be careful with is making something so that you can repeat something then all of a sudden it’s a commodity and you don’t want to do that. That’s why I pretty much throw them all away, break the mold so to speak. You know, you don’t want to, you don’t wanna keep repeating it but my goal is to, uh, make something somebody can walk up to it and say, I know who did that without looking at the label. So, that’s what I call a Wheeler and I’ve kinda gotten know for that. The strange and the bizarre and the peculiar, you know. I don’t, I don’t really suffer from insanity I rather enjoy it.
BARRY: Uh, it makes something that would... maybe if somebody else did it would be kinda ordinary. So, I, I take it a step further and make it... I tweak it and give it that little something and a lot of times, a lot of times it doesn’t require a whole lot of effort, it’s just getting the idea and once that’s there it’s, it’s downhill, downhill. Now, I, I’m very careful about that. I don’t like... I’ve had people ask me to make something to their own design and, and I just shutter at it and sometimes I will just do it out of courtesy but I, uh, and, I, I showed them what I would do... well, no I don’t like... I’m not into Art Deco, I’m not into Rococo... well, okay, I guess your checks good, that’s all that matters. But, I, I, uh, a lot of my stuff I can sell before it’s half done. I have a kinda unique marketing strategy and it works for me, that’s all there is to it.
BARRY: Gears, mechanisms, things that move, yeah, sure, that’s the fun part, that’s the fun part. Uh, I had one thing here, uh, it’s a, uh, it’s a fortune teller and I think I said something about that, I got the inspiration for the tank maybe fifteen years ago, well, the fortune teller goes back to my college days at an arcade and it was a telephone booth size fortune teller thing there. It was about the size of a phone booth and it was really old and out of order. Yeah, the figure in it was all dressed... a life-size figure from the waist up and, uh, probably dated from the thirties I would say and I just admired the thing and I, I finally resurrected that idea and finished that last year. And, it, it had a mechanism in it and stuff and, uh, uh, it was a collaboration, it... the lady needed a costume, I don’t cook and I don’t sew. But, my wife is really good at it and, uh, she’s a good artist in her right and I said, you know, this has gotta look gaudy and I needed a back drop and I was visiting another fellow blacksmith and it wife brought out this decorative paper and, uh, she said, oh you can get this at such and such place and I says, well, geez that’s great. I went down the street and there it was for a buck, that was the answer. You know, it had to look tacky but like Dolly Parton says, you know, it costs a lot of money to look this tacky, uh, and everything just kinda worked out. Came together and that’s it.
Traditions: Ohio Heritage Fellows
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Barry Wheeler interview, part 2 of 4
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Raw interview with Barry Wheeler, blacksmith. Part 2 of 4.
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Performing Arts
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Identifier: Barry_Wheeler_interview_part_2_of_4 (ThinkTV)
Duration: 0:07:48
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Chicago: “Traditions: Ohio Heritage Fellows; 301; Barry Wheeler interview, part 2 of 4,” ThinkTV, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed July 13, 2024,
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