Bay in­spires ‘ac­ci­den­tal’ artist

The Kent Island Bay Times - - Front Page - By HAN­NAH COMBS hcombs@kibay­

KENT IS­LAND — Tom Gauntt of Stevensville found an un­for­tu­nate turn of events send­ing him down a most serendip­i­tous path. Gauntt, a ca­reer pi­lot with South­west Air­lines, will be mak­ing his tele­vi­sion de­but on the INSP award-win­ning orig­i­nal se­ries, “Hand­crafted Amer­ica,” that tells the sto­ries of ar­ti­sans from around the coun­try who make prod­ucts the old­fash­ioned way: with their own hands.

In ev­ery half-hour of the se­ries, host Jill Wagner (“Christ­mas in the Smok­ies,” “Teen Wolf,” “Wipe­out”) meets three gifted ar­ti­sans and gets a be­hind-the-scenes look at how their prod­ucts are cre­ated. Along the way, view­ers learn about the his­tory and cul­tural her­itage that in­spire and in­flu­ence the de­sign of their hand­crafted prod­ucts.

Gauntt’s episode will air at 8:30 p.m. Sept. 22. In the in­tro­duc­tion, Wagner states, “Mary­land is well-known for its cul­ture and food (hello, crabs!) but cre­ativ­ity abounds in this state as well!” Gauntt was cho­sen for his tal­ent of craft­ing in­tri­cate drift­wood and sea glass writ­ing pens.

Gauntt said he was un­ex­pect­edly deal­ing with an au­toim­mune dis­ease two years ago that had him away from his usual out­door hob­bies. He said he needed an out­let to keep busy and turned to a hobby that had al­ways held an in­ter­est for him — wood work­ing.

Dur­ing a con­ver­sa­tion with his daugh­ter (an artist, as well, study­ing fine art in col­lege) about pens, they de­cided to buy a small lathe and see what kind of pens could be turned. Gauntt said he started mak­ing a few pens just for the fun of it. He was drawn to drift­woods that wash up from the Ch­e­sa­peake Bay and nearby Ch­ester River. The nat­u­ral voids left in the pieces of wood by the Bay were ideal to fill with resin tinted to re­sem­ble sea glass, Gauntt said.

The re­sult was a pen that was an in­cred­i­ble work of art on its own. The re­sponse Gauntt re­ceived when he shared some of his first work with his friends via Face­book was sur­pris­ing. He said, “it was re­ally in­ter­est­ing to see what grabbed peo­ple’s [at­ten­tion].”

On a whim, Gauntt de­cided to an­swer an ad at Un­com­mon Goods, an on­line shop spe­cial­iz­ing in unique and hand­crafted pieces. He sub­mit­ted a few pieces of his work and is now one of their fea­tured artists. A pro­ducer for “Hand­crafted Amer­ica” saw some of his pens and im­me­di­ately thought Gauntt would be a nat­u­ral fit for the show. The rest, as they say, is his­tory.

The show came to film Gauntt at his home and wood craft shop on Kent Is­land and even filmed some of their scenes at nearby Ter­rapin Park. The process of creat­ing just one pen takes months, he ex­plained. The wood is gath­ered, dried, and treated be­fore it can be turned and made into a pen.

Gauntt said he does not have a large in­ven­tory, nor is he in­ter­ested in “crank­ing out thou­sands of the same thing.”

“For me, it is about creat­ing a con­nec­tion to some thing — a per­son, place, or event. It is the per­sonal con­nec­tion that ap­peals, and al­lows me to con­nect these things to peo­ple,” he said.

Gauntt’s job as a pi­lot af­fords him the op­por­tu­nity to travel to dif­fer­ent lo­ca­tions in the U.S. and he is al­ways look­ing for ma­te­ri­als that hold a spe­cial con­nec­tion. He has ac­quired wood blanks from Mark Twain’s house and also Ernest Hem­ing­way’s Key West home. Gauntt also cre­ates cus­tom pieces on re­quest. One client sent a piece of his wife’s home­stead farm to be turned into a pen. The woman said it was the best gift she had ever re­ceived, Gauntt said. Those types of con­nec­tions are so im­por­tant to his work, he said.

He said he en­deav­ors to mix colors, tints to evoke ideas or a mem­ory. And the wa­ter, land, and peo­ple of the shore pro­vide just the right back drop for Gauntt’s in­spi­ra­tion.

It is fun and sur­pris­ing how the whole thing has hap­pened, said Gauntt. Gauntt’s works can be found on In­sta­gram at Ch­e­sa­peakepenco and www.chesa­


From the flight deck, Tom Gauntt, air­line pi­lot and artist.


An­other of Tom Gauntt’s one of a kind pens cre­ated from drift­wood found along the bay.

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