Published on Thu, Mar 1, 2001
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Fisherman to fountain maker

By Meg Olson

Tom Burton has been a local fisherman for 30 years, spent six years on Blaine city council, several as the mayor, and is now in his fifth year as an ambassador for the city’s creative spirit.

“I needed a creative outlet. It was just in me and it needed to come out,” he said of his newest venture crafting delicate fountains, fences and other garden furniture out of bamboo. “The first time anybody said it was art I was flabbergasted.”

Using no metal, Burton assembles cured bamboo using pegs, glue and twine. “Benches are mortised and tenoned, then glued and pegged to make really solid joints,” he said.

While Burton offers a whole line of garden furniture, most of his sales are fountains. “That’s the bread and butter,” he said. “We’ve sold fountains to gardens all over the country.”

The fountain kits come complete with bamboo spout and pump, to which customers add their own pot or barrel as a reservoir.

“For a small outlay you get a complete kit,” Burton said. “You plug it in and away you go – you have an interesting water feature.” Burton added that the design of his fountains is unique, incorporating a gutter cut to expose the water in the spout. “There’s more of a visual of the water before it falls,” he said.

Burton began selling his bamboo wares at the Bellingham farmer’s market and now attends up to a dozen craft shows a year, as well as selling fountains over the Internet. “Last year I had such a good reception I decided to get out of crab fishing, sell the boat and focus more on this,” he said, adding he will continue to fish for salmon.

This weekend he will join 150 other local artisans and businesses for the 22nd Annual Whatcom County Home Show and Garden Pavilion at the Northwest Washington Fairground. The largest home show north of Seattle, the show also features how-to demonstrations, local entertainment and food.

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