Each month Earth to Philly features a Dumpster Diver Dispatch, a series of stories and perspectives from Philadelphia's original "green" community of artists, the Dumpster Divers. Here is Dumpster Diver Dispatch #3.

Gary Ecrets, a self-taught wood artist, uses the natural bends and twists of tree branches, limbs and twigs, and usually local sassafras, to create unique garden furniture.

He weaves and intertwines this recycled wild wood with salvaged, weathered wood planks or old painted boards in his creative birdhouses, benches and chairs.  Deer antlers adorn, connect and provide armrests. Recycled antique or just old rusted metal farm and machine parts - saw blades, chains, hinges  - bring contrasting shapes and textures to enrich his work with their age and wisdom. Gary also plays with bark and sawn wood to create interesting contrasts.

Gary Ecrets' interpretations of horse-drawn wagons, garden benches, deer and even wooden pumpkins line Rt 49 in Hopewell NJ, outlining and defining Gary's home and workplace. Small wooden bridges, outhouses, inviting benches and his unique bird houses - all these reflect a domesticated setting of relics and call to mind a more peaceful and idealized pastoral time of romantic days gone by. The Zen-like garden setting of stone paths flows into and throughout the very neat, groomed natural wood setting.  Perfectly placed rocks, trees and bushes create balance and reflect an Asian-inspired feeling of tranquility.

This is a garden of hard-won simplicity with a bit of humor.  At first glance, Gary Ecrets comes across as a man of few words, neatly dressed and pressed, carrying himself stiffly upright.  And his yard and workplace look like him: Everything has its place - order is important here.  But a hint of humor, almost rustic itself, peeks out of Gary in his choice of materials, and is sprinkled throughout his work.

His elongated birdhouses, tall and thin or short and stretched wide, must provide homes for very uniquely shaped birds with unique abilities. Humor speaks out in the names: There is his "Hinged Bird House," his "Half Bird House."  A hammer on another birdhouse is for any needed home-owner repairs.

Tension and balance between nature and "man-made" grow and flourish in Gary's Garden.

-- Sally Willowbee

Sally Willowbee is a writer, artist, self-taught furniture maker, and lifelong trash-picker working to interweave her lifestyle, politics, feminism, creativitiy and humor with her concern about our environment. More info at www.quirkyworks.info