By Tommy Black
When he makes a basket, Andrew McCall just follows the vine.
“Working with a wisteria or kudzu vine is kind of like dancing,” McCall said. “You have to let it tell you what to do – never get ahead of the vine.”
For nearly 40 years, the talented craftsman known as the “Vine Man” has been creating baskets, birdhouses, tiny churches, chairs, tables and more from his home a few miles south of Montgomery. He explores nearby fields, forests and swamps for wild wisteria, grape and kudzu vines, and salvages old wood from demolished buildings – then turns the raw materials into works of naturally beautiful art.
“I grew up in Lowndes County, served in the military, and tried trade school and college, but that didn’t work,” he said. “Then I worked construction for a while.”
One day, McCall watched as a friend made grape vine wreaths.
“He asked me if I could do it, and I gave it a try,” McCall remembers. “I guess the rest is history.”
Eventually, McCall was taking his baskets to shops and shows around Alabama and selling the crafts faster than he could make them. “I showed some to a couple of galleries in Birmingham, and started selling a lot up there,” he said.
After exhibiting his works at craft centers and fairs such as the John C. Campbell Folk Center in North Carolina, and the Black Belt Treasures Gallery and Kentuck Art Festival in Alabama, McCall took his wares to the airwaves. “I talked to the QVC network about being on one of their shows,” he said. “They asked me to make about 800 units of small baskets – so for the next few months that’s all I did with three or four other people. That was no fun; it took no creativity. So I never did that again.”
It’s that love of creativity that keeps the craftsman walking the woods searching for the perfect vine, and then twisting and turning it into a perfectly shaped basket. While he could probably make more money producing more items, McCall is content to limit his artistic output and sell his crafts on his Facebook page or on the front porch of Priester’s Pecans cafe and gift shop near Fort Deposit. “My wife, Etta, sometimes helps me find vines and watches over the Facebook page,” he said.
Even though he also builds chairs, end tables and dining room tables from salvaged woods and willows, his smaller items seem to bring McCall the most satisfaction. “I don’t make a lot of money, but I’m OK,” he said. “The best way to do it is like you don’t know how to dance, and you’ve found someone who does. So I’m still just following the vine.”
The Product: Handmade wisteria, kudzu and grape vine baskets, as well as birdhouses and furniture made from willow and salvaged woods.
Take Home: A handcrafted birdhouse ($25 to $45)
Vine and Branch Creations, 334-407-9055