Artist Barry Graham creates home and garden décor from recycled and vintage items

Barry Graham at work in studio.

Barry Graham at work in studio.

Story and photos by Laura Brookhart

Each of Barry Graham’s Handmade Recycled Garden Art creations is one-of-a-kind, with a history and story behind each inspiration.

“Carving the wood and choosing the perfect hardware is my favorite part of the process,” Graham says, “as well as the hand-painted detailed areas.”

Made from recycled materials and wood, the hardware used is repurposed antique and vintage items—many unique objects found on his adventures throughout the Southeast.

“These are not birdhouses,” he emphasized, “but a creative work of art in the form of luminaries and home and garden décor—conversation pieces for sure!”

Graham creates decorative birdhouses, such as "Alice in the White Forest," 2015.

Graham creates decorative birdhouses, such as “Alice in the White Forest,” 2015.

The luminaries provide a glow wherever they reside via a small battery-powered candle.

No mass production techniques or tools (such as staple guns) are used; rather quality tools and materials echo the individuality and character of each.

“I also enjoy making customized designs from materials or collectibles provided by clients wanting a special family-history-story rendition,” he said.

The garden art and luminary sculptures and his interest in recycling and repurposing began to evolve after he moved back to Alabama and explored some of tools, pieces and parts accumulated by his father, a metallurgist for U.S. Steel, who passed in 2009.

Graham grew up in Midfield and Forestdale and graduated college from Ringling College of Art in Sarasota, Florida where he first honed his painting skills in oil, acrylic and watercolor and graphic art design.

“From my earliest studies, the source of my creativity has been inspired by nature especially—detailed observations of color, texture, and light—but also, as well, by personal transformation,” he said. “I believe that we are all a part of nature. Our energies interweave. I find my deepest inspiration is simply in the process of creating something out of nothing.”

"Temporal Clibration," an assembled facade, was made in 2013.

“Temporal Clibration,” an assembled facade, was made in 2013.

In his earlier experimentations working with recycled objects and wood elements, Graham wanted to be “wide open for direction” and during this phase, assembled some two-dimensional facades (shown in photo). Two of these went to a home in Japan.

Some of the vintage and quirky objects that have been well-received are hymnals and songbooks, electrical glass insulators, typewriter and clock parts (the cuckoo, for example) and piano and musical instrument parts.

Promotion is important, Graham believes, and he selectively chooses his venues. “It is one thing to have the ability to be creative,” he notes, “but if you don’t have the ability or resources to market it, you’re just creating your own private collection!”

Graham’s work can be found at Charlie Thigpen’s Garden Center, Kentuck Art Center, Four Seasons Garden Center in Jasper and Silver Hills Gallery in Gulf Shores. Both his paintings and garden art creations are available at Blue Phrog Gallery in Montevallo and the Coal Yard restaurant in Helena.

On Dec. 5, there will be a special pre-holiday showing of Graham’s garden art, luminaries and paintings at the Coal Yard. For specifics, visit