By Lee Waites
The neighborhood is unassuming, Roebuck Springs, a little historic neighborhood in East Birmingham. Its claim to fame is being the first suburb of Birmingham, established in 1910. Roebuck Springs is full of excellent historic houses, some very large, some very small, some fancy, some simple. It has managed to maintain its character for all these years, the houses displaying historic plaques including the names of the founders of each house and the date of its creation.
One of the best features of the neighborhood is the abundance of trees. The trees are an excellent habitat for wildlife. They have allowed the neighborhood to become an established bird sanctuary. They shade the houses and provide a buffer between the neighborhood and the hubbub of surrounding city life. Of course, where you have trees, you also have falling trees, which down power lines and knock out the cable. Since I used to live there I can assure you this happens frequently. They occasionally fall across yards and, unfortunately houses. After a storm you can drive through the neighborhood and see trees down on almost every street.
This is where I found Andy Cummings.
I was helping a friend move a friend when I drove up the street on a rainy day. I had to do a double take because there, on the side of the road, where there had been a tree, was now a sculpture, an image of three cranes with their beaks pointing skywards. I pulled over and snapped a few pictures with my phone and drove off very impressed, surprised and amazed. I assumed it was just an anomaly. Then a few days later I was driving again and I passed another one. On the side of the road I saw a man wielding a chainsaw, grinding away at a tree stump. I pulled over, hopped out and asked him if the sculptures were his doing. He told me they were. I felt guilty for taking him away from his work. But he was such an interesting guy, we talked for a good while, about life, about the Universe, politics, the economy. I told him about the BFP, asked if I could write up a little something, and he said that would be fine with him. I really had to, because this was such a great thing to find, serendipitous, freakin' cool, not in a fancy garden, not at a craft show, just there in these yards, in this normal neighborhood.
Mr. Cummings, who gets his jobs from word of mouth, has sculptures all over the state. When I met him he was working on an oak tree post, turning it into three bears, stacked one on top of the other. He says the customer just tells him what they want, then "It's like whittling, you just take out what isn't supposed to be there." When neighbors see what he’s up to many ask him about their own trees. In this way he just goes from project to project.
One of the most fascinating things to me was actually, to be crass, the price. I won’t go into detail, but the cost of having an extremely cool sculpture in your yard is so reasonable that I was shocked. It's close to the cost of simply having the tree removed and the stump ground by a tree service. Mr. Cummings also builds “rustic” play sets and many other custom wood structures. He likes to salvage wood, especially cedar. And he certainly puts it to better use than the city filling up a landfill with it. I highly recommend checking out his website and giving him a call if you need some custom woodwork, or if you need to feel better after the tree in your front yard takes out your porch.www.andycummingsart.com