WORDS/ JAMES JENNINGS
The lines on the brow of the man sitting comfortably nestled in the deep cushions of the couch testify that his younger days have been spent. However, the smile outlined by his salt and pepper goatee seems as fresh as a spring morning. If interesting art comes from interesting people, then Dickie Crowder certainly fits that description. He is dressed in gray shorts that hang loosely around his knees, a pair of comfortable slip-ons and a black T-shirt that reads ‘Got Wood?’” It isn’t a particularly impressive outfit, but it makes the right impression. Here is a man who has discovered what we all long for, what we all dream of, but few ever find. Dickie is comfortable being Dickie, and men like him are easy to like.
Dick Crowder, known to most as Dickie, has been building a life here in the Foothills for over half a century. He is probably best known for his work with tile, as he has been the man to call for kitchens, bathrooms and floors for over 30 years. His studio space is littered with the tools of his trade and the fruits of his labor from the tiled floor to the pallets of slate, marble and granite that occupy every nook and corner. He’s not a neat freak, just a working artist.
“I’ve always been an artist,” he says sinking deeper into the couch. Over the years, Dickie and his wife Jo Anne have had their hands in a variety of artistic endeavors from floral arranging to painting and selling pumpkins by the thousands. However, a whole new door opened up to them quite unexpectedly while preparing for their daughter Dakota’s wedding last year.
“She wanted a tree wedding,” Jo Anne recalls. “Trees have always been special for our family and she wanted a carving with five trees, one for each person in the family, so she could walk underneath it. (Dickie) wouldn’t tell her no, that he couldn’t carve that tree out. So he carved it out and we all just loved it.”
“I worked with tile, not wood,” he laughs. “After the wedding was over, I just brought the carving up to the showroom and everyone that came in wanted one.” With that, Dick Crowder’s Artwork Unlimited was born.
Jo Anne saw the potential in Dickie’s hobby and suggested that they try their hand at the craft fairs. Dickie went to work designing wood carvings of varied shapes and sizes around the simple theme from the wedding trees. “The first show was in Shelby,” she says. “Art on the Square.”
Jo Anne’s intuition was right on target as they won first place and $150 with their entry. They’ve been going to craft shows ever since. This past summer, they took third place out of 350 vendors at the Bele Chere festival in Asheville, a prestigious accomplishment that Dickie took in Dickie style. “He didn’t understand that it was a big deal and wasn’t paying attention … I just looked up and saw all the cameras and I’m like, ‘Dickie, you really need to turn around,’” recounts Jo Anne.
It’s a family affair as their children, now grown, work alongside packing, setting up and tearing down for each show. Recently, Dakota, after standing in line for hours trying to purchase a designer dog collar, decided to buy a sewing machine and make her own. “She just said, “I can do that,” recalls Jo Anne, and now she has her own business; Two Spoiled Dogs. That seems to be the Crowder family way. Dakota’s display can now be found next to her parents’ work.
For this local boy whose roots run deep into the red dirt of Cleveland County, life is good. His love for art and family has opened a new and exciting chapter in his life, and he is enjoying every moment.
Dickie’s studio is located at 931 Mooresboro Road, Shelby, and will hold its 2nd Annual Open House, Nov. 30. You can contact him by phone at (704) 472-6777 or email email@example.com.