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For the Birds

DALLAS -- Tonja Geddes is inspired by nature.

Tonja Geddes has taken a passion for nature and creating things and directed it toward birdhouses that are not only homes for her flying friends, but provide food and items the birds can use as nesting material.

Photo by Pete Strong

Tonja Geddes has taken a passion for nature and creating things and directed it toward birdhouses that are not only homes for her flying friends, but provide food and items the birds can use as nesting material.

May 21, 2013

DALLAS -- Tonja Geddes is inspired by nature.

Glance around her home outside Dallas and you will see a flower vase fashioned from a gourd, a bowl made of a hollowed out piece of wood she found during a walk in the woods, and wind chimes of bamboo cut on a recent trip to Arizona.

Geddes, a lifelong artist, also is driven to recycle unwanted items and turn them into something whimsical.

In the case of her most popular creations, she has combined those two inspirations.

Often you can find Geddes sitting at the table in her natural light-filled dining room with a glue gun and surrounded by moss, silk flowers, bird seed, millet, grass and sliced dried corn cobs -- all ready for some home decorating.

Homes for birds, that is.

Geddes' take on the birdhouse is a bit unusual. They have mossy roofs and are covered in bird seed, nuts, millet and corn, making them a kind of bed-and-breakfast for our feathered friends.

The houses themselves are made of old fence boards or other salvaged wood and put together by Geddes' brother-in-law, Russ Geddes. The moss and twigs, used to make tiny "porches" on the houses, are collected during walks in the forest near her home. She grows most of the remaining house "ingredients" with the exception of the bird seed and millet, which she buys.

"The idea here is just to recycle and reuse and to make something really pretty with it," Geddes said.

Geddes began making the birdhouses after she and her sister used the idea for Christmas gifts about 10 years ago.

"Everybody loved them," Geddes recalled. "A friend of mine goes `I bet people would want to buy them.'"

Geddes was skeptical, but gave her friend a few to sell, just in case.

"They just were gone in no time," she said. "Before we knew it, we were making them all the time.

"Everything is natural and just repurposed, recycled and almost everything on here they can use for their nests or they can eat," she added, noting that when working with pieces birds may eat or carry off to make nests, she uses a nontoxic glue.

Geddes uses a hot glue gun to attach items like corn cobs and the houses

Photo by Pete Strong

Geddes uses a hot glue gun to attach items like corn cobs and the houses' handles, and utilizes a nontoxic glue for the seeds and other peices that birds might eat.

Each house is slightly different from the next, likely a product of Geddes' creative process.

"I just start putting them together. I decide what color they should be and I just start looking through my bins of stuff over there," she said, pointing to two large plastic totes full of silk flowers, sticks and other colorful decorations. "Most of those are things that people have abandoned, that they don't use anymore, and I find a way to reuse it."

Geddes admits her first houses weren't so charming as the hobbit-hut-like ones she makes now. That developed with practice.

"First of all, I just made up some birdhouses for some family members of mine and I painted them," she said. "I got to thinking later on wouldn't it be fun if you could watch the birds use it? I just started putting things together and gluing things on there and pretty soon I came up with this."

The birdhouses are part of a business, Gypsy Wares, Geddes runs with her sister, Terra Geddes, selling crocheted rugs and wind chimes.

Avian abodes are more than just a home.

Photo by Pete Strong

Avian abodes are more than just a home.

"It really is a lot of fun," Geddes said. "And I feel privileged to do something that is fun and make a few dollars in the process."

Geddes has found the birdhouses are indeed the hit her friend thought they would be, especially around holidays such as Christmas and Mother's Day. But how do the birds react to them?

"When I make them up, I always tell people to leave them in your house and enjoy them, like a flower bouquet or a decoration, because as soon as you put those out there, they are gone," she said. "Leave them in the house and when they get dusty and you get tired of them, then you can put them outside and you will just get hours of fun watching the birds."

Learn More

* You can find Geddes' Gypsy Wares birdhouses for sale at Plain & Fancy Gifts, 740 Main St., Dallas, and Dallas Antique Mall, 811 Main St. Dallas. For more information or to order items, call 503-559-4447 or email creekside-2@q.com.