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Gresham Pollard of Earthworks Photos by Isaac Harrell
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Civil War-inspired gabions as rainbarrel covers
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Pollard created a teardrop-shaped swing for the 2012 RSOL Designer House.
Richmond native Gresham Pollard earned a degree in geographic information systems (3D maps) at JMU, worked as a Henrico County firefighter and was doing small scale home-improvement work when he received a text message that changed the course of his work.
R•Home: What did the text say?
Gresham Pollard: There was a photo of a little barrel-like thing, and the message said, "Can you make this?" I thought it looked interesting, so of course I said yes even though I didn't really know how. It's called a gabion, and the Lincoln movie needed some made. They're containers that are filled with stones … they were used in the Civil War to help fortify the earthworks structure. I made 100 of them out of grapevines, 3 feet by 1 1/2 feet in diameter. I ended up working on the movie for five or six weeks, also making 500 linear feet of chevaux de frise, wooden frames covered with pointed sticks, which also were used in battle as obstacles to slow down the enemy.
R•Home: So that led to starting your business, Earthworks?
Pollard: Yes, while I was making the gabions, I would be driving through town with 10 of them in my pickup truck, and while I was at stoplights people would say, "What is that?" I could see there was definitely a demand for them. Since then, I've sold them at farmers markets and made them for the Symphony Designer House. I also made a 6-foot-tall kind of bird's nest swing, all vines and one piece of rope. I hung the swing from an old-growth oak tree on the east side of the house by the porte cochere. It was teardrop-shaped and about 4 feet at the base. All the adults who got in it felt like kids again … it's like a sanctuary where you can tuck away and read a book.
R•Home: How do you get your materials?
Pollard: Mostly I use wild grapevines. I have access to a 500-acre farm, so I look around in the woods for vines I like. Sometimes I'm able to pull and yank them out of the trees, but I also have a [complement] of tools to use, depending on how entwined they are. I keep all parts of the vine and use the majority of it, including the tendrils and branches. It's pretty pliable when it's still green.
R•Home: What inspires your work?
Pollard: The outdoors, nature, the shape of trees, the soft angles and bends of rivers — it's all right there in front of you.
R•Home: What have you been working on lately?
Pollard: I did some vine work for the exterior of Urban Interiors in Carytown. I [also] make "Tanglewood Orbs" of vines with an old 40-watt Edison bulb inside that has soft, diffused light. I've made whimsical herb garden fences, and I'm working on a garden bench made out of really thick vines. One person asked me to make a frame out of vines for a portrait. For spring, I'm taking orders for some extra large gabions that fit over and hide ugly, plastic rain barrels. If you can think of it and convey your idea to me, I will make it.
For more info, visit earthworksrva.com