Lincoln painter turns skills to repurposing found objects

Buttons. “That’s what started it all,” Reed A Prescott III explained a few weeks ago in his studio-shop on Main Street in Bristol. Buttons are what redirected Prescott’s attention from his 20-plus-year career as a landscape painter.
About three or four years ago, Prescott noticed how much buttons cost at chain stores like Michael’s, and he figured he could make better wooden buttons and turn a modest profit. So he did. Old chair legs are one of the most common materials he uses because “there’s a lot of old chairs hanging around, and they’re uniform,” he said. The buttons have done surprisingly well, which has encouraged Prescott.
“Any behavior rewarded gets repeated,” said the Lincoln resident.
And so Prescott started making zipper pulls, earrings and other small knickknacks out of found objects. He makes things out of old keys, scrabble tiles and all sorts of repurposed wood. The list doesn’t stop there; his shop is filled with pieces showing his creative ingenuity and good-ol’-Vermonter waste-not attitude.
“I’m really having fun with it,” he said pointing to door handles made from rusty wrenches. Then he picked up a wire sculpture of a dog. “This came about one day when I was holding onto this wire,” Prescott remembered. Wooden hearts, light switch plates, tree ornaments, necklace pendants, and one-of-a-kind “separation pay” pieces like a piece of driftwood with a rock lodged in it fill up the wall and floor space of his shop.
But what’s held his attention in this relatively new woodworking endeavor, are “gifts with special meaning.”
What are those?
Take for example, picture frames Prescott made with salvaged wood from an old friend’s family home when it was torn down. Or earrings he makes from pieces of wood from the steamboat Ticonderoga (build in 1906); lilac wood from the Shelburne Museum property he uses to make earrings, picture frames and more; or crosses made from a Red Elm that came down recently near the Lord’s Prayer Rock in Bristol.
“These pieces have more meaning,” Prescott said. To help customers appreciate that meaning, Prescott has begun making tags that explain the significance of the wooden pieces. “They’re perfect for gift shops!”
One request for a meaningful gift involved turning an old waterski into a picture frame. This got Prescott interested in cutting into more sports equipment. Last summer he experimented with canoe paddles, hockey sticks, a drumstick, and pieces of the old Mount Abe gym floor.
If it seems like Prescott blows where the wind takes him, that’s just about right. Since he left his job as a press operator at Middlebury’s Standard Register in 1988, he’s been pursuing his own artistic interests.
It started with a stint in pen and ink nature illustrations. He has illustrated 10 books, including “Owls” and “Birds of Prey” by Floyd Scholz, as well as books for naturalist writer Ron Rood. He was the first Vermont artist to win the Vermont Duck Stamp Competition and also holds the win for the 1995 Massachusetts Duck Stamp competition.
“My goal was to get out of the factory and do my art,” said the self-described “Air Force brat,” who grew up in six different states, before returning to Vermont where his family has called home since the 1750s. “I was able to do that through my wildlife art for five years.”
Then Prescott switched his sights to oil paints and began painting landscapes. Since the mid-’90s, Prescott’s main works have been in large oil landscapes. His work is defined by his acute attention to detail.
“I realize now that landscapes are perfect for me,” said the artist who has a dead spot in his dominant eye, which makes him focus on small areas. “What people love about my art work is something that I have naturally.”
“People ask me if I like wood working more than painting, and the answer is no. Painting is more fun,” Prescott acknowledged. “But last fall I was struggling to do things visually like I used to.” And that’s when woodworking came on the scene.
“Now I’m developing products that are more in line with ‘something special to you,’” said 59-year-old father of two. “I like the stories it creates so I want to make products that say that.”
Keep an eye out for new endeavors by Prescott — they’re sure to be resourceful, well-crafted and entertaining.

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