A Piece of History Montana
Growing up on Montana ranches teaches one to respect what has been and will take on a new life as time goes on.
Those beautiful big bone yards that sit in the back forty rusted covered in grasses grown over them, the old barns that slowly come to the sunset years because the old farm is no longer what helps the family make a living. The old farm house that stands as a memoriam, to what once was the heart of the family ranch.
We all drive by them and imagine what life could have been back in those days a simpler time when life did not move at the pace it does today.
Or the drive through the older parts of town or the woods when you’re looking at those big beautiful trees that have finished their lifetimes. Some blow over others have died and rotted part way going back to the earth. Many see just that and envision them as nothing more then a bon fire or firewood for heat.
Here at A Piece of History Montana, Mary and James just happen to look at them and think, wow. Let’s respect what once was and bring it forward, into the next hundred years as functional art that can bring its history with it into homes for others to add to the history for generations to come.
How did we get our humble beginnings?
Miss Mary got very tired of working in construction and longed for the love of her life the passion of creation. Life is just too short to live with out loving what you’re doing.
At this time a wonderful opportunity presented itself. Our neighbor introduced us to the granddaughter and her family, who own the De Young Ranch in Kalispell, Montana. They recognized the old buildings were falling down little by little and needed to be taken down. Grandpa George would be tickled to know that all those buildings, rusty metal wheels and other goodies were headed to a different perspective. It took one look to be in love for both Mary and James. The imaginations for both of them went crazy looking at the materials available. The birth of A Piece of History Montana began…
We can never thank Jamie and Scot enough for getting us started by letting us share in the family history. They even let us use the family brand on all the pieces we create from the ranch. So people know where it originates from.
What we do here at A Piece of History Montana, well with a big love for the feelings that come from old farms, we remove them with a gentle touch in hopes to save and find new life for as much of the materials as we can right down to the little rusted details you see on our work.
Here at a Piece of History Montana we use Montana materials and purchase other materials from local small businesses when possible. One of our requirements for our works whether it comes from a barnyard, an old fence, a drive through the woods or our local suppliers we search out the history of the individual pieces that make up the end product. When possible we date and list the locations that parts and pieces come from. The goal is to have our customers be touched by the past of each little detail.
We believe these beautiful time worn places deserve recognition of their by products Just as we believe every owner of one of our pieces can be proud and have bragging rights with the knowledge of where their work of art has spent its past lifetime.
We prefer to do custom work walking hand in hand with the buyers so that they can share in the creative process this connects them with the finished piece when delivered. We share pictures and history of where materials come from when we can, along with commentary as we do the work unless they want the surprise.
Another aspect that A Piece of History Montana does offer is to work with our customers materials. If you have anything special you want designed using materials from your own past or those in the back forty of your grandparent’s old farm even something you found that you just love and want built into an original to enjoy we can do that.
We also will work with your bison or longhorn skulls or hunting trophies if you like. As well as using your tanned hides for upholstery on your designs with us.
What can we do, Oh Baby, well we can create and do just about anything your imagination can come up with. Between the two of us our talents cover a large area. We know when to call in local Montana friends who have talents we do not possess when needed. The challenges are the ones we love.
Materials we work with
James ran a high end masonry business for years, so he knows his rocks and what we can do with them.
We make many versions of stone tables from the little guys to large entry tables weighing in over a thousand pounds. We carve sinks and if you need that big old stone bath tub we can even carve one of those for you.
Now Mary, she looks at stones a bit differently, yes she helps carve but, she does detail carving and insets. As an artisan who carves many materials, metals, stones, bones and woods, she can add the tiny details that will make that carved bath totally amazing.
She also uses other forms of little fancy rocks to create our Cabin Skulls which are mosaic covered with gemstones that takes them from an old skull to a piece of art. Gents, that means a compromise if the lady of the house is not impressed with a bleached skull on her wall.
Wood, well, uh yeah, we work with all types of Montana grown woods from those big old pines and fir that can be more then 4 feet across that grow right here in the Northwestern Rocky Mountains to the walnuts, maples and locust that line some of the streets in our older neighborhoods to the cherry and apples trees growing around Flathead Lake. We have a son who will cut these to any length and any thickness we may need for chairs, beds, doors, counter tops, bars, tables, armoires, dressers, mantles, etc. We create slab tables from small apartment fold down tables to large conference tables up to 20 foot or longer if needed. We do both live edge as well as book match.
Mantles are also a specialty for us whether you need a full 36 inch diameter tree for a mantle to a 150 year old wooden beam to a delicate original that fits into a parlor. We do any design any kind of custom mantle a person can come up with. We have the technical experience for installation of all types of mantles as well.
Mary has a love for the woods she swears she can feel the history that comes from them while she works with them. She loves to put on here headphones, crank the tunes, turn on her sanders and leave the world behind sometimes sanding for 8 to 10 hours a day. She claims it is meditation, we think it’s her excuse to not have to talk to anyone.
According to Mary, who really does not trust anyone with sanding A Piece of History Montana art, the extra love that goes into the added amount she does brings up colors and grains that many may not realize are in the wood. They actually glow with out any thing applied. Our barn woods have a natural look to them and are baby smooth because she is so fussy about how to bring out the beauty with out taking away the patina. She will even get out her Dremel and fine polish cracks in the wood. Being an artist she also custom mixes finishes and works with our customers on the finishes that we can provide that make our pieces heirloom quality.
Obviously we work with other materials, we are known for our ability to find and create a mix of materials for bases, details, edges, legs and feet on our pieces. Metal work is another part of James’s skills. He can hand forge rusty metals into bases that create a mood for a room. We can take on more contemporary looks in metal if needed we are not tied to any specific style.
Mary also has a specialty working with metals. She specializes in creating and building patinas on metal as well as working at producing a more refined multi media art form that incorporates metals, inks and patinas. You will find a technique she has created on our rusted table and counter tops, which is very durable yet obviously rust.
As you go through our work you will also see various types of materials that we pick up and find a new purpose for, bringing the past forward, into our products. This is what we do at A Piece of History Montana. It comes from living on those old ranches where nothing is thrown away, but reused for something else.
You will notice we refer to our selves as a couple of kids off the farm. We have been told that just does not make us sound quite like a pair of professional capable artisans. At our ages we are way passed the concerns that we may not be taken seriously or our work respected. We tend to put so much dedication, time and love into every piece of work we produce that the quality is impeccable. We know that and so does everyone who touches our work.
For those who just have to have something our home has been in Mother Earth Living and on Worlds Greenest Homes on the Discovery channel. James has had work in the Big Sky Journal, Architectural Digest, and other magazines as well as in several books like Rustic Home by Ralph Kylloe. Mary’s work sold through Yellowstone Trails in the 90’s as well as catalogues that sold her art in jewelry forms and portraits. We have been partners in an art gallery as well as having a few of our pieces of work in galleries now.
Hmmmm, about me, I am the Queen Bee here at A Piece of History Montana, guess that means the owner. I like to think of myself much like I do the materials that I work with. Time has given them a patina that shows what they have been through in their lifetime. My patina is my life experience that has brought me full cycle back to the passion of creation that I enjoyed as a child.
My work tends to reflect my life when I was young I lived on a horse, I did artwork, okay I can admit, I was the class nerd. I grew up in Charlo, a tiny drive through town in Montana. You will notice the occasional Bison, Cowboy and Native American styles in some of what we produce. Charlo is close to the National Bison Range and my son loved them. My Daddy was a real cowboy. Charlo is on the Flathead Indian Reservation. I married into a Native American family where I learned traditional arts to pass along to my 3 boys as they grew to keep the culture alive. Raising our boys was the joy of my life, being at home with the kids gave me the opportunity to build not just my traditional skills like making tipis, beadwork, leather tanning etc. It allowed me to refine my finer art skills that included painting, graphite, charcoals, airbrushing, jewelry design, and much more. As well as learning to carve basically any materials including bowling balls of all things, remaking furniture, antiquing and specialty finishes. I was selling my work through catalogues, internet, local shows and businesses as well as custom orders.
With life changes, kids grown and being out on my own, I moved into more photography and design. I ran construction crews working on site with them, learned to lay stone and tile, and was in control of quality on jobsites. My art skills also got put to use with specialty finishes which began to get me into doing design of custom furnishings with the realization that my life skills made it very easy for me. You can see the mixed design that came from pairing with James in the home we built together.
In 2008 life changed immensely, everything crashed. Alan, one of my sons died, I spent 4 years working through life when I realized no more could I pretend to be happy working construction. I needed to live again I needed the passion of creativity that is a part of me. That’s when I stepped back into the arts and looked for my little niche that has always been out of the ordinary and of impeccable quality. In 2014, we were partners in a small art gallery which added to our education. 2015 brought the Great Western Show during CM Russell week into our lives giving us our first taste of doing a show. So there you have what has helped me to develop my life patina.
There you go folks, Ladies first, because Mom said.
Growing up on the farm is the best thing for people, learning life’s lessons on a daily basis. Picking rocks out of the fields gave the equipment more time for what it was intended for. After leaving farm life and entering the exciting world out there, I recognized even more of what was absorbed from farm living.
Some thing I have shared with many is, that all the time learning talents while growing up I never, ever, heard you couldn’t do something.
Grandma was my first grade teacher, Grandpa and Grandma kept at it, teaching me that is, till I graduated high school and moved away.
Wood shop, heheh, glue our teachers chair cushion off to one side then keep from laughing while he tried to adjust it. Four years, plus sneaking out of study hall to work on a project. Mr. Wasley never sent me away, even if he knew who pulled some pranks. He shared so many things about his love for working with woods. Ahh, the memories, hmm, must be the history thing again.
One of our neighbors was instrumental in my learning to weld and work with metals. Thanks Tom.
The rocks, well must have got into my blood after picking them for too long. Carving, placing and yes still picking them. Now the use of heavy machinery makes it way easier to move the big ones that seem to catch my eye.
Mary and I have the ‘bestest’ time putting our creativity to use. Working side by side, bouncing ideas off one another, teasing at time too, you can never have too much fun.
So if you hear it can’t be done,,,,,,, contact us,, we thrive on it………