By Ginna Parsons
TUPELO – When Gary Gough walks into his shop at his home in Fulton, his mind is open to any and all possibilities.
“The building is full of pieces and parts,” said Gough, 70. “I don’t know what I’m going to do when I get in there, but something will inspire me. I work on something every day, sometimes eight hours, sometimes four. I’m not into sports, not into hunting. My shop is my keep-from-going-crazy thing.”
In the shop, you’ll find ammunition boxes, door knobs, shower heads, barn hinges and hardware, library index card cabinets, fence posts, wire and rope spools, old doors and shutters, reclaimed flooring, glass jars, mirrors, iron pipes, well pumps, metal numbers, door handles, electric fence insulators, automotive parts, car tags and metal signs.
He’ll turn those odds and ends into tables, benches, hall trees, shelves, desks, key racks, wall decor, beds, lamps and specialty items.
“I try to work with all reclaimed materials,” Gough said. “That’s just my preference. When you keep something out of a landfill, you’re helping Mother Nature.”
Gough was born in Owensboro, Ky., and moved to Tupelo in 1964 with his job at Kuhn’s, a five-and-dime store. From 1978 to 2000, he worked in the circulation department at the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal.
“I’ve had a zillion jobs and wandered for 25-plus years,” he said. “I never could find what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I always gravitated to a job where I managed people, worked with people. I’ve always considered myself a people person.”
Gough has also owned antiques shops and dabbled in collecting old things for some 50 years.
“People ask me if I watch the television show “Pickers,” he said. “I say, ‘Watch them? I invented the term.’”
Gough considers the pieces he creates to be more than just furniture.
“I’ve always been an artist in one form or the other – this time I’m transferring that into furniture,” he said. “I don’t build a piece and then duplicate it 40 times. Each piece is different. I’m not a furniture manufacturer.”
Some of the items Gough has made are in the home he shares in Fulton with his wife of 47 years, Angelia.
“I’ve made a few pieces I can’t part with,” he said. “Angelia loves it. She’d take every piece if she could fit it in the house. She’ll capture a piece every once in a while and I say, ‘Go ahead.’”
But most of Gough’s work is at Eclectic Decor in Tupelo.
“Gary is my only handmade artist,” said Jonathan Lauderdale, who owns the shop, which opened in November 2012. “He’s my go-to man for my unique folk art furniture.”
Lauderdale found out about Gough’s talent when he spotted a table he had made in a store window. He asked the owner who made it and immediately contacted Gough about creating pieces for his shop.
“I want people to know this isn’t an average piece of furniture – it’s art,” Lauderdale said. “I never know what he’s going to bring me. And I don’t question it. I just buy it.”
‘Just a hobby’
Gough said a piece could take as little as two hours to make, or as much as two weeks, depending on the size and complexity of it.
In Eclectic Decor, his work sells for between $100 and $1,200.
One novelty piece involves an old crank telephone, freeze plugs from an old V8 motor, a shower head, farm implements and a handle. A table is made from sewing machine drawers and faucet knobs. A metal table is made from an old floor register, iron fencing and wood that Gough painted canary yellow.
“One of my favorite pieces is for a man cave,” Gough said. “It’s made from a Jeep grill with working headlights, but there’s a shelf on top so you can display stuff. This is something you’re not going to find in just any house.”
Gough figures he has about 100 pieces in Lauderdale’s shop and he makes new creations every day.
“This is a hobby, just a hobby,” he said. “It’s something I love to do and it keeps me out of trouble.”