Local wood artist inspired by music

Published 9:24 pm Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Thirteen years ago, Bill Palmer built the first of his guitar stands, each a one-of-a-kind wood work of art fitting for display of that special guitar.

With this idea, Palmer launched himself into the upper-end fine craft market and began to add other designs in exotic woods to his wares.

A recent guitar stand, sold at Houston’s Bayou City Art Festival in October, used burled maple from Oregon, nogal, a type of walnut from Central America and Pennsylvania curly maple.

“Many of my customers are businessmen who collect guitars, not necessarily famous performers. I recently built one, called The Explorer, for a gentleman who had purchased one of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s guitars.”

Palmer himself still has a closet filled with guitars. People ask him if music influences his work, and of course, it does, on multiple levels. Palmer’s early art training encompassed pencil, pen and oils.

“It was when I began working in wood that I became truly obsessed,” Palmer says. “It felt like the right medium for me.”

An art teacher in college once commented that Palmer is a rare breed — an artist who can go back and forth between abstract and realism — generally thought to use both left and right sides of the brain.

“I guess I am lucky to be whole-brained,” he says. “And my wife, Toni, says I am in touch with my feminine side. I love to carve curves and the heart is a favorite motif.”

Palmer arrived in Alabama from New Jersey on his motorcycle at age 22. He had barely visited with his parents, when he had a 50-mile-an-hour encounter with the rear end of a car. His visit became an enforced stay for the two years it took him to recover from his injuries.

“I consider myself a Southern man, now,” he said.

Palmer eventually began a landscaping business, but let it go in 2007 to devote his full energy to wood art. He travels to six or eight large shows each year, such as Mainsail, Atlanta’s Dogwood Festival and Fairhope’s Spring Festival. He will be at the upcoming Blue Light Special show in Leeds on Dec. 13-14.

“When you’re an artist, you are always looking for inspiration and inspiration can be found everywhere you look. I spend a lot of time in the woods. My ideas come from the universe and sometimes from the wood itself,” Palmer said.

“I believe that art really is a way of life. It’s in the appreciation of the details around us that we learn who we are and how to love.”

Palmer can be reached almost anytime at 621-0727 or by e-mail at billpalmercustoms@gmail.com.

Laura Brookhart can be reached by e–mail at labro16@yahoo.com.