Functional art, inspired by nature’s best

Metal art

Ben Caldwell once made musical instruments. Then, he fine-tuned his skills and found a new calling.

In his studio in downtown Nashville, Tenn., Caldwell works as a metalsmith, making copper and silver serving pieces. Using traditional metalsmithing techniques, the nationally recognized artist creates sculptural, hand-hammered trays, bowls, spoons, and salad sets.

Many items feature flowers, leaves, vines and naturally shed dear antlers, which are used as handles and bowl stands.

For special-occasion gifts, his brie server ($100) is a big seller. So are his spoons and flat serving trays with the ginkgo leaf design. During the last year, items with the burr antler handles have attracted buyers from across the country. Serving pieces range from $175 to $250. Trays and bowls range from $185 to $1,200 — and up. But no two pieces are alike. To order, visit

Go fish

Fred Fisher is a fishmonger. But the Florida man doesn’t sell fish you eat. Fisher sells original fish rubbings.

Fisher’s interest in Gyotaku, an ancient Japanese art of fish imprinting, began 10 years ago. It combined Fisher’s love of fishing and a desire to create a collection of his catches. Before long, Fisher was reeling in fans at art shows, on eBay and on

In Fisher’s style of Gyotaku fish rubbings, each fish is covered with colorful acrylic paint. Then, handmade paper or cloth is pressed onto the surface to capture a mirror image of the fish.

People buy his fish rubbings and limited-edition prints for various reasons, such as what they fish for or what they caught on vacation. Saltwater fish usually outsell the freshwater variety, said Fisher, who lives on Lake Talquin near Tallahassee.

For hostess, lake or beach house gifts, Fisher’s cutting boards also have been popular. Made of tempered glass, the cutting boards are 8 inches by 11 inches, with the fish image applied to the back. Visit to order cutting boards ($35), unframed prints ($35 to $95) or to place a special order.

Natural creations

John “Gabby” Gabrielson never had any formal art or woodwork education. But that did not stop the retired real estate and investment executive when he started working with reclaimed cypress wood at his home workshop in Miramar Beach, Fla. In 2011, Gabrielson’s later-in-life interest launched a new business: Natural Creations.

In his unique home furnishings and accessories, Gabrielson uses “sinker” or deadhead cypress wood. Sinker cypress wood comes from massive cypress logs that were harvested more than 100 years ago from swamps in Florida and Louisiana. Some of the logs that were cut during those harvests sank and were left behind by loggers. Now, many of the sinker logs have been discovered and pulled from lake and river bottoms.

Gabrielson uses the salvaged cypress wood in his handmade tables ($200 to $800), stump tables ($190 to $300) and sculptures for mantels and shelves ($140 to $400). There also are accessories ($50 to $250) such as mirrors and lamps. No two pieces are alike thanks to the color variations and imperfections in the wood.

To learn more, visit In the Atlanta area, find Gabrielson’s work at Queen of Hearts (, 670 N. Main St. in Alpharetta. Ask for Lisa Gabrielson’s booth (dealer code: LAG), or contact Lisa, an interior designer, at

Best of the South

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