Senior Report: Ornamental concrete producer

By Theresa Schmidt - bio | email

RAGLEY, LA (KPLC) - Stone crafters -- they are a vanishing breed, with an art young people don't seem to be interested in carrying on.  Gene Thomas of the Ragley area is among just a handful left in the state.

Gene Thomas Stone Craft is one of those roadside businesses likely to catch your eye. You may stop out of curiosity or seeking some specific treasure. Look more closely and under the canopy of trees you may see Thomas, who produces many of the stone statues he sells. "I didn't have a workshop and I couldn't work out in the sun so the trees were here and I needed them and it's worked out okay."

The statues he offers for sale range from red cardinals to tall, pink flamingos and many religious figures.  " I love to make things, to make things and sell it. I poured a pelican this morning. Everybody in Louisiana, they love the pelicans and these are little cemetery pots."

His wife Shyral is usually close by painting and such. She explains, "Paint makes the detail show up better, brightens it up. On the animals, we give life to the animals with their eyes and the color. We enjoy our time together. We enjoy this creative work. Gene is a very creative person."

His ingenuity extends to tools he's devised from a special dolly with a crank for lifting heavy pieces to a wheel to make it easy for Shyral to turn pieces she's painting.

The stone crafting is something Gene Thomas has done for years, and he's one of only about five left in the state. "It's very, very hard work. Most young people just don't want to, I'm covered with sweat now and it's early in the morning."

His success may,  in some measure, stem from his attitude. His favorite saying is above the door. "I say live with courage each day. I think that most people are just afraid. They're afraid to try. They're afraid to fail. I don't get up afraid of what's going to happen today. I just get up and live with courage each day."

And his work is no doubt a blessing for those who come here and likely leave with some special treasure that may inspire for years to come.

Gene says he plans to keep on crafting stone as long as he can move. His place is about two miles south of the Ragley overpass.

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