In 2002, I, Jerry Toney, the Artist and Designer for Cherokee Iron Works built my first Chandelier. My wife, Verla Toney was in the process of redecorating our home in Western/Southwestern décor. After spending months looking in many places, she could not find what she considered to be a nice Rustic Chandelier. She came to this conclusion one night while sitting at the dinner table. “Honey, let me get this right... I need a rustic chandelier, but I cannot find one. You on the other hand, are a Master Tool and Die Maker…… make me one!” Of course this simple challenge could not be unanswered. So, I began the task. I mean, how hard could it be to build a chandelier?
The challenge however, was a little more than just building a chandelier. I had to come up with a diffuser for the art bands, then a way to assemble the light without welding so there would be no discoloration. Then, I had to learn how to stitch deer rawhide. I had to learn how to properly wire a chandelier according to UL standards. Needless to say, the first ten or more tries went into the dumpster. I did build some less than par lighting. Finally, after almost a year, SUCCESS! My first Chandelier, “Old West”, was at least one that I was not ashamed to hang.
Of course, Verla then had to have breakfast room lighting, dining room lighting, ceiling fans, table lamps, switch covers, etc, etc... you can see where this is going. I was virtually being nagged into a new career. At this time, this "hobby" was turning into a large home project.
Then, I heard that Roy Rogers Jr. was moving the Roy Rogers & Dale Evans Museum to Branson, Missouri in 2003. I contacted Roy Jr. and offered to build a foyer Chandelier for the Museum. Roy Jr. was skeptical and asked to see some sketches. When I sent the sketches, Roy Jr’s. reply was a commission to build the “Happy Trails" Chandelier. In the fall of that year, the then President of the Western Music Association, Mr. Mickey Dawes, saw the chandelier at the just opened Museum. Mr. Dawes nominated me for the “Western Way Award” for "Keeping The Western Way Alive". I proudly received the Award.
Cherokee Iron Works is a blast. Building custom lighting and doing custom art for a living is more than I expected. When I see someone hang a piece of my art in the center of a room, and make it the focal point of their home, it gives me much honor and joy.
Thank you very much for the opportunity,
Jerry L. Toney Artist/Designer