ABOVE: Stephanie and Rod Harris with their whimsical birdhouse tower.
While some may find solace in Oreos and comfort food while hunkered down to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus, others find joy in creating. The latter applies to two artistic neighbors on Grandview Street in Mount Dora’s historic district.
Rod Harris, a professional contractor with impressive woodworking skills, enjoys adding interesting and artistic elements to the historic home he and his wife, Stephanie, have extensively and tastefully renovated. They purchased the house in 2012 after moving from Colorado. “We walk around Mt Dora a lot and always appreciate seeing the variety of creative ways that people add beauty and interest to their homes and yards,” said Rod.
Rod’s creative challenge was to make artful lemonade out of a rather large and unsightly lemon. In this case, the lemon is a conspicuous, towering stump. It began when the couple had to remove an old tree from the very front of their yard and it was a difficult space for a grinder to fit to remove the stump. Rod requested the tree crew leave an eight-foot stump behind for him to transform.
Using wood from spare fence pickets, Rod set to work constructing brightly colored birdhouses and affixing them to the trunk. The bold final touch was building and painting an oversized birdhouse at the very top of the stump. The result is a whimsical tower, a bird condominium of sorts, that has quickly become a favorite landmark for residents taking neighborhood walks.
The entire endeavor took a weekend to complete from start to finish.“However, it took two years and a pandemic to get me started,” said Rod.
Creativity is contagious in Mount Dora, so it’s no surprise that an artistic neighbor within eyeshot of Harris’ project was quickly inspired to create her own yard sculpture for others to enjoy.
Fransje Zucchera, inspired by a little toy she saw a decade ago, decided to create an oversized grasshopper in her front garden. Zucchera, who bought her first house in Mount Dora in 2010, said she chose the whimsical garden insect as her subject because she likes to surprise people and do the unexpected.
Fransje Zucchera (right) and Allyn McCombs next to their grasshopper sculpture. If you look closely you can see its skinny rebar legs. (Mount Dora Buzz photo)
Zucchera, a native of Amsterdam, challenged herself to use only leftover materials from a previous project, including plywood for the boxy body and rebar for the long legs. She enlisted the help of good friend Allyn McCombs to help bend the legs and weld the platform to affix the body. The grasshopper’s lime green body took Zucchera about 10 days to fill, sand, prime, paint and coat the plywood to make it look like powder-coated steel.
The artistic result is a leggy, angled sculpture with bulbous eyes lurking in the front garden of her cottage placed within easy view of the sidewalk for passersby.
This isn’t the first large sculpture Zucchera has created. In a previous home, she created a life-size horse crafted from curly and twisted Oriental Bittersweet vines.
The Harrises and Zucchera hope their Mount Dora neighbors enjoy their creations and will be encouraged to create their own yard art to share with the community. Their projects can be seen on Grandview Street between Ninth and Ten Avenues.
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