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Willow Walker Justin Roberts

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Willow Walker Justin Roberts

By Pat Thomann, Editor

Folk Artists and Craftsmen Justin Roberts knows a lot about trees, willow trees to be exact. Justin is a Willow Walker. As a young man, Justin worked in the food industry but he never quite felt it was his calling.

Through the years, Justin had heard of a man by the name of George Beard who was known as the Willow Man. Although Beard was known throughout North America, it was exciting for Justin to learn that Beard lived just outside his home town of Murray, Kentucky.

Justin contacted Beard and discovered that willow work is a dying art and Beard, at 85 years old was more than happy to find a young person interested in learning the craft. The two have since become best of friends as Beard began to teach Justin the art of making beautiful furniture out of willow trees. Beard saw right away that Justin was a natural.

The pair scour the countryside in search of willow trees. Willow trees grow quickly and are usually found near water. Landowners are usually more than willing to allow them to harvest trees from their land in exchange for a beautiful piece of their work.

In addition to chairs a wide variety of items can be made from bent willow. Everything from benches and tables to birdhouses, willow baskets, wheel barrows, swings, plant stands, magazine racks, bookshelves, garden sculptures and even a child's playhouse and miniature furniture.

Justin recently brought his artwork to the KWW Arts and Crafts Festival in Grand Rivers. As he explained the work he does, it was apparent that this was his life's calling. The excitement in his voice as he explained how each piece is intricately placed and woven together to make a beautiful work of art was evident.

Willow furniture is easy to care for, whether you are using it indoors or outside. Furniture should be treated every 2 to 5 years with a polyurethane or linseed oil depending on how much sun your furniture receives. If you are using your furniture outside it is recommended that you also use a bug repellent on the furniture each spring and allow 48 hours to dry.

Willow Works is located at 1621 Old Newburg Road just outside Murray, Kentucky. You may contact them at 270-227-4855 for more information or check out their website at www.walkthewillows.com.

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