This post first appeared on Green Source DFW , which will be cross-posting pieces from their site that touch on the green side of arts, crafts and culture. Rita Cook, the author of this post, has written five books and has contributed to the Dallas Morning News, Waxahachie Daily Light, Fort Worth Star-Telegram and other publications in Los Angeles, Dallas and Chicago. She is the author of A Brief History of Fort Worth, published by History Press.
Ovilla resident Amber Parker has worked at Southwest Airlines for the past 27 years, but in her downtime it’s all about recycling. Particularly recycling old baling wire that she twists into crosses, angels, beaded horseshoes and butterflies that sell from $10 to $20 depending on the style and size. “I always have an eye out to make yard art from anything I see,” Parker says. “I made a fountain from the cream separator on my grandparents cotton farm in west Texas. I made a gold fish pond out of a horse tank that had rusted, and the other horse tank I turned over and made a mosaic scene from tiles that I salvaged from a former tile location in Red Oak and I made sunflowers from some aerator blades that my Dad had in his shop.”
The list goes on, but Parker says the angels made out of the baling wire are her most popular items to sell and she makes a variety of styles and sizes. “There are so many styles that people make,” she says “but I am really proud of the original angel design that my husband and I came up with together and has turned out to be so popular. The butterfly design is also an original idea, but it seems to be a more seasonal item,” she adds. Last year alone, Parker used approximately 500 strands of baling wire and she has been doing it since 2003.
“I recycle baling wire into angels, crosses and butterflies and wrap beads around used horseshoes. I also have a roll of rusted barbed wire from a farm in East Texas that I make larger crosses out of. When I first started making them, I hung them outdoors as patio art, but people now have them hanging in their homes and in their cubes at work.” Parker says she first saw a cross made from wire, with a stone in the middle, in a furniture store in Richardson and thought “I could do that.” “I used to throw the baling wire from my horse’s hay into a feed sack and put it out for trash. I realized that I could make one of those crosses out of the baling wire. My husband, Lloyd, saw me struggling with the wire, and made a form for me to wrap the wire around.”
Over the years Parker’s crosses have morphed and she says “when one of them sold at a Saddle Club banquet my husband decided to help me. He made another form with a different style cross. We made a few of his crosses, and then I realized it had the potential to be an angel. He widened the horizontal section to form wings, and the top section is now the angel’s face.”
From there Lloyd has helped her design the angels and the butterfly design too. One of the things that she says surprises her most about her art is that overall so much baling wire is thrown away and that she has actually found a way to design objects out of it that people want to hang in their home or on their patio. “I enjoy making angels and crosses as I love being outdoors. I use the shelf on my Dad’s old BBQ pit in our back yard, as it is just the right height, and gives me room to wrangle with the wire. There are times when the horse will stand on the other side of the fence from where I make them, the dog is lying on the ground beside my feet, the cat is nearby, and my chicken stands on the top of the BBQ pit. A beautiful sunset makes it the perfect setting.”
Selling about 100 pieces a year and blue being her most popular color for the angel faces, with turquoise and blue beads on the horseshoes, Parker says she’d like to make more garden objects in the future, but it has to be from salvaged materials. “People like handmade items,” she concludes. “Visitors like items made in Texas. I put a tag on each item that has a little picture of me in a pearl snap shirt, jeans, hat and boots on my horse, with the other side “Cowgirl Angel – Ovilla, Texas.” Some people never take the tag off.”