The Berkshires ~ UnFramed Photography
JL Gardner (Jeff) has traveled around this country his whole life, seeking the less known paths, the “blue highways” as they are sometimes called. He has ventured down many roads on foot, bicycle, behind the wheel of an eighteen-wheeler and in the back seat of a Greyhound bus. Somehow, he has always been drawn back to New England and Berkshire County in particular. Jeff has found great comfort in these familiar hills, from the Connecticut border through Stockbridge and Richmond and on up to Williamstown. The landscape and most importantly, it's old barns in various states of disrepair has caught his eye more than anything else. These old barns are a remarkable aspect of an age of lasting construction and a bygone culture, that to this day, stubbornly remain standing, despite hundreds of years of deep freezes, boiling summers and relentless winds and rain. Clearly, there is still a deep emotional connection to these places by those who own some of these remaining relics, and of those passers-by, like Jeff Gardner. Jeff started photographing these barns in different settings and formats when he first moved back here from California in the early 1990s. As a hobbyist, crafter and all-round handyman, he also became deeply interested in the “nuts and bolts” of these beautiful old buildings which, though designed as practical storage units, seemed almost holy somehow, evocative of a kind of innocent and unsullied spirituality (some were even called “tithe barns,” used for storing contributions to the church). Even the tools used to make them seemed like sacred instruments: the broad axe and the framing hatchet, the maul and mortise, the auger and the adze. "I increasingly felt like I needed something more personal and tactile than photographs and it occurred to me that I should somehow combine my interest in woodcrafts with my interest in these barns." So, began his craft of framing his barn photographs with the very same wood they were made of "I hit on the formula I use today to construct high-quality, sturdy, practical works of art, using wood that might be 200 years old to try and evoke and preserve an important, quickly vanishing piece of America." Even though we are a relatively young nation (there are pubs in Germany that have been in operation since the 6th century AD), it is our rustic old “ruins” that help tell our story. The great American artist John Ruskin wrote, “antiquity is no dream; it is rather the children playing about the old stones that are the dream.” Jeff went on to create birdhouses made from the same old barnboard material, emanating a similar rustic/Americana flavor. He has sold these unique pieces of art in stores from one end of the county to the other for a few years now. Artisans of the Berkshires is the new on-line home of Jeff's work, as well as that of many other outstanding Berkshire Artists. Browse around this site and see some of the finest crafts from Berkshire County artists all assembled in this easy-to-use marketplace. Check out Jeff's birdhouses, photography, and framed art, along with music, books, jewelry and many other forms of handcrafted, one-of-a-kind art from local artisans. Artisans of the Berkshires has it all!