Master carver, painter makes his way to The Factory at Franklin with array of carousel animals


Master carver, painter makes his way to The Factory at Franklin with array of carousel animals

By JOHN McBRYDE

Ken Means thought July 25 was a good day to move to Franklin.

It was, after all, National Carousel Day.

Step into the main entrance of the Factory at Franklin and you’ll get the connection. Along one corner of the building is a glass-walled space that has been housing all manner of carousel animals since Means and his wife, Bettie, moved from their home in Myrtle Point, Oregon, to Williamson County last week. They brought with them a menagerie of intricately carved and painted horses, lions, rabbits, roosters and more, as well as four or five unfinished pieces.

“My daughter lives here and has been wanting us to move here for some time,” Means explained as he chiseled away at a figure that would eventually become a well-painted donkey. “She told us she rented this space on a one-year lease, so after talking about it for about a week, we decided to make the move.”

Means is a master carver, painter and mechanical engineer, best known for the carousel animals he has created and had commissioned for Merry-Go-Rounds throughout the world. His first creation was a wooden rocking horse he made for his children in 1979.

In Myrtle Point, he owned a three-story building with a floor that served as a showroom for his collection of carousel animals. It also included a basement where he taught the art of wood carving for almost 27 years.

“People came from all over the United States and Canada, with some from Hawaii and Australia,” Means said. “The classes were always booked. There was one student from Oakland, California, who waited three years just to get in the class, and one from Denver who waited two years.

“We might start a school here, I don’t know.”

The rented space in The Factory serves as both Means’ workshop and his showroom of 20 carousel animals. He spent a recent weekday carving on an unfinished piece that was strapped to a table while taking questions from moms and dads and children who were in awe of the collection.

“I enjoy this space, it’s a great spot,” Means said. “But I need to figure out how to close off my workspace. My hours are rather limited (open Wednesday-Saturday noon-5 p.m.) so I can work more.”

Asked if he had a favorite piece, Means simply said “the next one I create.”

“I have a great vision for this guy here,” he said, pointing to one of the unfinished pieces. “It’s going to be a tiger — a sneaky tiger — with a big monkey swinging off a vine behind him, and then wrapping around in front is going to be a very large snake. It’s going to be really spectacular. I hope to have him done by Christmas.”

More information on Means, and a gallery of the animals he has created, can be found at his website. Or visit his space at The Factory for up-close looks at his creations.

Ken Means stands alongside a frog he carved and painted. / Photos by John McBryde
Ken Means works on what will become a donkey, while his wife, Bettie, works in the background.

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