If there is one sure thing in Southern Indiana, it is that when the high winter waters of the Ohio River recede in the spring, views of the waterway include stacks of driftwood along the shores.
Most people find little use for driftwood; some may collect it, but most haul it away to be burned or disposed of. When carpenter Curtis Wasmer gathers river wood, he crafts it into unique art.
Tucked away in a shop space in Newburgh, Indiana, Wasmer works on small to gigantic sections of Ohio River driftwood — he cleans, whittles, carves, and shapes the wood into décor items offered through his contracting business Built On The Rock. Wasmer and his wife Jean moved to Newburgh in 2011 from Maryland (the Wasmers have three grown daughters, two sons-in-law, and two grandchildren). He owned a small contracting business there as well, but never had the opportunity to work with driftwood.
“In Maryland, I never had a resource like I do living near the Ohio River,” says Wasmer. “When we moved here, it always was in the back of my mind, ‘Gee, I would like to take a few pieces back to my garage and work on them.’”
Wasmer began Built On The Rock in 2014 not only as his own contracting business, but also as an opportunity to create his driftwood décor. The name was drawn from the Wasmers’ faith. Built On The Rock refers to the passage Matthew 7:24 in the Bible.
“For both of us, our faith is a big part of our lives; it is our lives. It directs all that we do and say,” says Wasmer. “I wanted a name that was going to reflect the fact that our faith is there.”
The best driftwood for him often depends on its uniqueness; wood with character that is solid and strong often finds a home in his workshop. There are times he knows exactly what he will make from a piece. Other times, wood may stay in the shop for a span before an idea strikes him. After a section is dried and cleaned, it is ready for Wasmer’s steady and artistic hand.
“This type of work allows me to apply my skills as a carpenter and gives me a real opportunity to vent my creative side,” he says. “I really wish some of these pieces could tell their stories.”
Currently, Built On The Rock has no storefront — Wasmer works out of a garage space at 4877 State Road 261, Ste. I, Newburgh. All of his pieces for sale are listed on his website and Etsy page. A few items also are on display at Kruckemeyer and Cohn, 944 N. Burkhardt Road.
For more information about Built On The Rock, call 812-202-8074 or visit builtontherockdriftwood.com.