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Couple works together on hobby

When a windfall of cedar planks came Gene Soto’s way more than 10 years ago, the Sunnyside man decided to take up a new hobby, one both he and his wife have come to enjoy. From the cedar planks, recycled from old fencing, Soto and his wife Bertha have created, decorated and sold a myriad of window flower box planters and one of a kind birdhouses. “He makes them and I decorate them,” said Mrs. Soto. Since retiring from their respective jobs – he as a Sunnyside Housing Authority employee and she as a para-pro at Pioneer Elementary School – nearly three years ago, the couple has filled their time making and selling their wooden garden art from their north Sunnyside home. At first, the couple used their new skills to decorate their own charming back yard. As the couple continued to create their rustic window boxes and birdhouses, Soto decided to venture into bench building. Now, several of his benches are displayed prominently at various corners of their North Fourth Street home. Today, their joint creations, which are trimmed with recycled rusted door knobs, broken latches and even the occasional broken faucet handles, are sold via word of mouth. “We have considered selling our boxes at local farmers markets,” Mrs. Soto explained. She likes to add her own special touches to the window boxes by adding a small tree branch complete with a bird’s nest and a small bird. “Sometimes I use angels or whatever is available. But each of our boxes also is stamped with our G&BS brand,” she said. Soto said he is in no current danger of running out of his original supply of cedar wood. “But we are looking around for more recycled wood sources,” he said, adding that their travels take them all over the state, looking at abandoned wood piles and visiting antique stores for ideas. The creative duo admits their favorite television programs to watch, when they have a minute to spare between projects, include the DYI Network’s “Salvage Dawgs,” Great American Country Network’s “Junk Gypsies” and PBS’ “Antique Roadshow.” “We get a lot of inspiration from the programs,” she said. “We take pride in keeping our yard nice. We love sharing our little creations. But most importantly, each of our items are made with rustic love,” she added.

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Photo by Julia Hart

Placed along a wood fence, Gene Soto’s window boxes provide a colorful and peaceful garden landscape. Many of these pieces are for sale, said Mrs. Soto, who decorates her husband’s handiwork.

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Photo by Julia Hart

A bit of an old white bathroom door, a glass doorknob and a few planks of cedar fencing are used to create this welcoming sight at Gene and Bertha Soto’s north Sunnyside home.

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Photo by Julia Hart

A rustic wooden ladder is transformed into the overhead base for an arbor at the hands of Sunnyside’s Gene Soto. The wisteria-covered arbor overlooks his outdoor work space in the back yard.

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Photo by Julia Hart

Gene Soto likes to work from a small table located near his storage shed in his back yard. He said the typical window box takes upwards of two to three hours to construct.

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Photo by Julia Hart

Gene and Bertha Soto created and continue to enjoy their outdoor room, located off the back door at their Sunnyside home. “We take a lot of pride in our property and it gives us pleasure to share it with our friends and family,” she said.

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