When Chris Cummings started making birdhouses in his spare time six years ago, he thought he was just combining his love for Airstream trailers with his lifelong passion for art, the ReporterNews.com recently reported.
Little did he know the Airstream birdhouses would later be selling faster than he could make them, featured in international magazines, and shooting to a level of popularity that required him to copyright his unique creation.
Cummings, the 52-year-old owner of The Paint Center in Abilene, Texas taught himself to re-create the iconic design of an Airstream trailer in miniature form, cutting a hole in the side to make it a home for birds.
He recalled the day he first had the idea to create the birdhouse. He realized the potential of an Airstream-themed birdhouse while looking at an antique birdhouse in a local store. Out to dinner with his wife, Kim, that night, he told her he had a brilliant idea but was unsure of how to execute it, according to ReporterNews.com.
“I didn’t know how to use the aluminum the way I wanted to,” Cummings said. “The Airstream has this very distinct look on the edges, I didn’t know at first how I would pull it off.”
Cummings said that in the middle of the night he was jolted awake with an idea for the perfect method to mimic the Airstream design in miniature form.
After manufacturing a few with the help of Abilene Mill Works, he started selling them on eBay, he said, and Airstream enthusiasts were falling over themselves to get their hands on a bird house.
Before too long, people were bidding more than $500 on the auction website for a birdhouse, Cummings said.
Once the novelty wore off and there were more of his creations in the marketplace, he said he had to find a sweet spot for pricing.
The vintage aluminum Airstream birdhouse trailer can now be purchased online for $69.95, reports ReporterNews.com.
In a way, the business started long before he ever made the first Airstream birdhouse. Growing up, Cummings and his dad would take a couple of weeks each summer to go camping in the family’s 19-foot Holiday Rambler travel trailer.
“I was watching a travel show once and I saw an Airstream trailer,” he said. “It just took me right back to my childhood.”
The sleek, sturdy construction of the Airstream trailer dictated every aspect of the construction of the birdhouse, he said.
“Airstream trailers are so well-made, I wanted that to be reflected in the bird house versions. About 70 percent of Airstreams are still on the road today because they’re so well-made. That was my inspiration.”
Even though he doesn’t have his own trailer, Cummings said making the birdhouses has been a good way to stay involved in the Airstream culture, according to ReporterNews.com.
“This is a good way to stay connected,” he said of the birdhouse business. “There’s a lot of cool people who are into collecting or restoring Airstreams.”
Cummings says his long-term goal is to have a complete line of creative products that are structured around his love for vintage trailers. Currently, he has three products—the original Airstream birdhouse, a canned ham birdhouse modeled after the popular Shasta trailer, and a photo frame modeled after the classic Airstream look.
He chose to recreate the Shasta after the Airstream because it is another popular model. The thing that makes the Shasta so recognizable, Cummings said, is the aluminum siding is crinkled. His birdhouse has the same effect, he said, and he is currently working on the prototype to add to his online store.
Cummings hopes to re-create birdhouse versions of the most popular three or four travel trailers on the road.
Although the birdhouses continue to grow in popularity, he said he doesn’t plan on giving up the paint business anytime soon.
The birdhouses allow him to make a living through his store while keeping his creative juices flowing, he said. He claims to be an artist at heart.
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