We had the good fortune of connecting with Dessiree Wielgosz and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Dessiree, why did you pursue a creative career?
The career chose me. When we moved here to Georgia from Arizona, I took a break from teaching to get my M.ED. I returned to teaching as an online instructor for four years. That is when the business started. Ironically too, our business started out with making furniture. My husband and I have struggled to find furniture made with quality craftsmanship, and find it American made is even more challenging. You don’t see that unless you find good antiques. That’s craftsmanship. After he made a few pieces for our master bedroom, many friends encouraged us to start selling furniture pieces. Each piece I make, it’s a risk, like Vegas. You don’t know if people will like it or if it is such a hit that it’s gone immediately and customers want more- which is hard when you do custom work. I often hear, “I could never do that” or “you are so creative,” and I tell customers, ‘pick up a paintbrush, give it a shot, the worse that can happen is you paint over what you think is a mistake.’ I am a history teacher by trade. I used to draw and paint when I was a kid, but never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d be here at this stage. Every day when I walk into the shop, it’s, “what today can I do, what if I try this…” sometimes it works, sometimes it’s a big NO.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I am a history teacher by trade. That is what my degrees are in history and teaching. So my business and what we represent and create revolves around that, history. A lot of my work and items made would be considered “primitive” or “Americana”. We are a patriotic family. I am the daughter of a Vietnam Veteran. So our pride and love of this country show in our work, in our flags. Starting a business is never easy. Maintaining a business (especially during a pandemic) is overwhelming and mentally taxing (never mind the financial aspect). There’s a lot of praying involved, that is for sure. I thought advertising and building clientele was difficult and challenging. But this pandemic has presented a whole new ballgame of stress and “what am I doing with my life” thoughts. I prayed about going back to teaching in the brick and mortar setting. I prayed for guidance. I left it to God to direct me to where I was to be, and so far, despite the pandemic, the work for my business keeps coming in, and new opportunities continue to present itself for SRCF . I want the world to know about our products because we truly take pride in our work being handcrafted. For example, when I make our American flags, they are truly hand made. Our flags are different then others in a few ways, one, we do not use a CNC to carve out the stars. I hand draw them then hand burn them. To burn fifty stars takes over an hour. Also, each strip is hand cut. We do not use a solid piece of wood. Also, the way we distress them, they are made to look vintage or antiqued. We frame our flags too. So there are a lot of hours put into each flag. That kind of mentality is what happens for a lot of pieces that we do. When someone wants to buy a flag, I will always ask where they want to hang it (as some will want to display them outside), and I don’t advise that. We do not seal our flags for outdoor display; we can, if custom ordered, but not on a started basis. So I will advise against the purchase if that is there intent. People are shocked that I’d risk a sale, but I don’t care, well, I do care. But I care because we are all hardworking, and to pay what you’d pay and have it (or any of our products) damaged would be wasteful and wrong on my end for not properly informing you.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Oh, that’s easy. My best friends live in two different states, one in Michigan and one in Arizona, so I’d take them to two different and unique places. Melisa, who lives in Tucson, AZ, is an avid hiker and loves history, so for us, we’d spend the day hiking part of the historic Appalachian Trail, Then visit and stay in Helen for some fantastic German food. To be nestled into the mountains surrounded by pine and oak trees. Of course, it’d have to be in the autumn to truly appreciate the views (and the weather- she’s a desert girl and doesn’t do humidity). My other best friend, Krista, she’s in Michigan (where I was born and raised). We’d go antiquing and in-between that if we stopped at a Georgia winery, there’d be no complaints. She enjoys history too; there’s no doubt we’d be heading south to historic Savannah. We’d talk and walk amongst the oak trees covered in Spanish moss, the historic homes, and cobblestone streets, catching up on kids and life. It would be perfect I’d also take her to Bonaventure Cemetery. It is so hauntingly beautiful. I walked it when I was there for a craft show and found it so peaceful and beautiful, and if we were to capture little Gracie Watson in the process, well then, fantastic.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
Southern Rustics would not be where it is today without my family, specifically my father-in-law. He is my main go-to man for building. I am blessed that my out-laws (that’s what I call my in-laws) live with us. At 76 years young, Walter, AKA “Sweet Pampa the Sheriff” or Sonney is my primary builder. I present him with ideas and brings them to life. I have always said to him, “build if you want, take a break when you want,” and his response is, “you sit- you rust.” So we build. He keeps me on my toes, that is for sure. He keeps me busy too. Without Sonney, I would not have my tractor benches, popular stove-top covers (dough boards), etc. Without Sonney, I would not have my flags, Christmas Trees, or wall hangings. My mother-in-law, Yvonne, does all our sewing for our handmade pillows, totes, and curtains. My kids love to help too (in-between playing mine-craft and fortnight) with sanding and staining. My oldest will scrape the dirt and cotton off the tobacco sticks for our handmade tobacco stick stars. The husband runs a demanding work schedule, but he’s there to build our farm and console tables when I get custom orders. We literally are a family business.
All photos taken by SRCF