Rustic, western roses appeal to many occasions
Shawn Barber of Barber Designs found that rustic roses appeal to many people for many occasions. While his biggest markets may be Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day, the roses are also popular for Memorial Day and Christmas.
“I also get orders for weddings, birthdays and anniversaries,” he notes.
Starting a craft
Three years ago, Barber was wandering through the Black Hills Stock Show and saw something he never imagined would turn into such a lucrative part-time career.
“I happened to stop by a booth selling rustic western furniture,” he recalls. “Laying on one of their coffee tables was a crude rose made out of some scrap metal. It was made from rusty metal and faded John Deere paint.”
“What really caught my eye was the rusted barbwire they used for the stem,” he explains. “I went on to the next booth, but the wheels were turning inside my head.”
“When I got home, I started doing some research on making rose buds until I came up with my own design. The next time I went to town, I came home with some sheet metal and a pair of tin snips,” he explains.
Barber’s vision came to life. One rose turned into three, which turned into half a dozen. He welded the stems of these roses together and turned it into an arrangement that was placed into a vase and given to a special girlfriend for Valentine’s Day.
“The bouquet turned out so nice I made three more for my close friends to give to their girlfriends for Valentine’s Day,” he explains. “I also made one for my grandma. She loved it.”
“After that, people would see the roses and just love them,” he says. “It became a calling for me and has turned into a nice part-time, seasonal business.”
Barber says the roses can be used for inside or outside décor.
“I receive a lot of interest from people in regards to outdoor placement, particularly for gravesites,” he explains. “They work perfectly for that. In fact, my biggest sale yet was a local woman who purchased two dozen roses from me. Most of them were used for gravesite placements.”
The rose design was created from a four-petal simple cutout that takes four pieces to make one rose head. Barber has hired out the cutouts to a company who can laser cut the petals out of a full sheet of sheet metal and ship it to him.
From there, he hand-mints the roses using two pairs of needle nose pliers to bend up each pedal one layer at a time.
“I can have one rose head up in about two minutes or less,” he says.
He then cuts a nine- to 10-inch piece of barbed wire, which is welded to the rose bud and masked off to be painted. The barbwire serves as the stem and gives the rose a rustic look.
Barber then sandblasts the rose head and paints it. He offers a variety of finishes from rusted to painted, as well as powder-coated and numerous hydro-dipped patterns.
Barber has crafted over 2,000 roses since he made the first one three years ago.
“There are three different occasions where my roses were used for marriage proposals, and two of my family members are buried with two different roses six feet underground.”
“They truly do last forever,” he says.
He has shipped roses to the lower 48 states and Canada.
“People really like our roses for weddings because I can do specific shades and colors,” he says. “They also make great anniversary gifts.”
Barber has marketed the roses primarily through social media sites like Facebook, Instagram and a website.
“Business has spread mostly through word of mouth,” he says. “It is a powerful tool.”
A story with every order
Making the roses has come with a few unique and memorable experiences, Barber says.
His first order of roses for a marriage proposal came from Canada.
“They ordered a dozen purple roses with one hand-engraved with the words ‘Will you marry me?’ I did the engraving before the rose was painted, so when I painted it, it filled in the engraving and was hard to read,” he explains.
“Last summer, an old high school classmate made a request for a set of five roses to honor the five fallen police officers of the Dallas Police Department. Those roses were done in a blue and black fade paint job, and each rose featured a silver vinyl decal of each of the officers’ badge numbers,” he explains. “These roses were given to the Dallas Police Department by my classmate and I.”
Although Barber currently offers personalized service to his customers, he hasn’t ruled out creating an online store in the future.
“I do everything the old-fashioned way,” he says. “All of my sale orders are custom and built-to-order. It usually takes me one to two weeks, depending on the quantity I have to make.”
“I really enjoy offering customers the personalized touch. I want to make sure they get the color and shade they want so they are really happy with it,” he notes.
Although Barber is happy making roses, he is looking to expand his business into other unique items. After finding a supplier for old railroad spikes, Barber started making different sizes and variations of crucifixes with roses and barbwire on them.
“People have really been receptive to them,” he says.
He is also commonly asked where he gets the rusted barbwire for rose stems, and his usual reply is from the neighbor’s fence, which typically generates a chuckle.
While visiting with an older gentleman, he came up with the idea of using old fence stretchers and mounting roses to them.
Barber acquired some fence stretchers that were unusable and welded the jaws, ratchet and handle shut. He then cleans up the stretchers and applies either a clear coat or a chrome, powder-coated finish and welds roses to the stretchers.
“It has generated a lot of interest. People really like the idea of re-purposing fence stretchers as home décor,” he explains.
Gayle Smith is a correspondent for the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to firstname.lastname@example.org.