For Jeff Story, the drive to embrace his creative gene was so strong that it caused him to re-evaluate what he wanted to do for a living.
After working on heavy machinery for several years with companies such as Burlington, he came to the realization that he wanted to transition to a career that allowed him the freedom and independence to pursue his love of art and handmade items.
“Before, when I worked in a machine shop, I really just got bored with it because I had done it for so long,” Story said.
“The money was good, but it didn’t feel right to be. For me, it just wasn’t worth it.”
About four years ago, Story began selling what he describes as ‘outsider folk art’ out of the house he has lived in for over three decades.
Whether it’s a refurbished piece of furniture or an original painting, his eccentric pieces are unlike anything that could be found in a department store.
“I was thinking on it, as far as going into this after I left working with machines, but at the same time I really didn’t know,” he explained. “I knew I was going to try it but I had no idea if it would work or not. The hardest part was really just putting it all out there and overcoming that fear of criticism.”
Story comes from an artistic family where both of his parents made pottery and his mother also painted.
After participating in pottery with his parents and learning from them for a couple of years he wanted to expand his interests to the folk art and refurbished items he now makes.
While he received support for pursuing creative outlets, his parents shared his skepticism of the possibility of it becoming a career.
“I started to get a little frustrated and wanted to branch out to something other than pottery, and my dad was asking me what I was going to do,” he said.
“We were actually watching one of those antique road shows and I told him ‘That’s exactly what I’m going to do’, and my dad told me I was crazy at first, but then we both started to see the money and opportunity involved with refurbishing stuff and doing folk art.”
Once Story began creating more items, his notoriety spread and the business began to take off.
While most of his promotion work is done through Facebook, starting last year he began placing some of his work in auctions.
Aside from that, he says the rest of his business probably comes from word of mouth or people spotting his work outside his home on the corner of Hamilton Street and University Parkway.
“I would say 70 percent of my work goes to the Tri-Cities and then the other 30 percent goes out of state… I’ve had stuff in Colorado, California, Utah, Nevada, and all along the South Coast,” he said.
“My goal was just to start here and branch out from there, and I’ve also had quite a few repeat customers that have asked for custom pieces and things like that.”
Since pursuing his love of folk art, Story can now say that he has a career he genuinely loves.
Although it still has its challenges, as with any career, the gratification of being able to create unique pieces that people love has propelled him to work several hours a day, if not all day, on at least a few new pieces of art every day.
“What I do love is that my dad was able to see a lot of my stuff bought and people taking an interest in it before he passed away,” he said. “He really started to accept it, my dad told me one thing that I’ll never forget, he said ‘if you enjoy doing what you do and if you can make a living off of it, then you’ll never really work a day in your life.’”
Story’s artwork can be seen on his Facebook page “Old Crow Studio Rustiques and Art Oddities.”
He will also have several pieces featured on Oct. 31 at the Kimball Sterling Auction on West Market Street.