GILSTORF WATER FOUNTAINS OVERFLOW WITH HISTORY
Fred Gilstorf fell into his fountain-making craft in a most unusual way. He was working for the Chamber of Commerce in Gatlinburg and part of his job was setting up a booth at various events and shows. A creative person, he designed two self-contained fountains from antique parts to draw attention to his display.
“People wanted to know if they were for sale and when I explained they weren’t for sale, they wanted to know where I bought them.
The following year, I made a half dozen fountains and they were snapped up,” Fred says. The Tennessee craftsman lives in an area where antiques lay around barnyards and many times a farmer is glad to have someone haul away what he considers junk. “I’m single and own a 50-acre plot out in the mountains. I don’t have neighbors to object to my property being a repository for history in the making. I leave a lot of my antique inventory outside and I have a series of big tents where I work and store fountains in various stages of construction.”
At Shaker Woods this summer, Fred will set up aisles of working fountains so visitors can see what a fountain looks like in operation. He says that all fountains are self-contained and can be easily transported in the average car.
“There are a few bigger fountains that are easier to move in a hatchback, but these are the exception,” he says. “Most are two and a half to three feet high, perfect for patios. Some people tell me they put them inside in a foyer or family room.”
Every fountain is one-of-a-kind. The foundation piece for outdoor fountains may be an antique galvanized watering can or milk jug. A pump and distribution hose are concealed inside. There may be an old wagon wheel behind the fountain or he made add driftwood or barn wood into the design to conceal the reservoir.
He has established a network of antique dealers throughout the country who are authorized to buy the kind of antiques he uses.
“I drove an 8,000 mile sweep from Florida to Texas this winter selling fountains and collecting antiques. I finished the trip in Indiana before coming back to Tennessee. I’m still finding a rich variety of materials in out of the way places.”
He met Sue Ferguson at a Farm Fest in Florida.
“She invited me to participate at Shaker Woods and funny thing is, I’d been hearing about Shaker Woods from my crafter friends. They had been encouraging me to apply. ‘You’re gonna love this place and people will love your fountains.’ That’s what I heard and I guess Sue felt the same way.”
Fred has sold 20,000 fountains in the fifteen years he’s been building them. He takes a lot of pride in the workmanship he puts into them and offers a lifetime guarantee for outside use.
“I do all the work myself so I know it’s done right. I’ve had very few problems over that many years so buyers don’t need to worry about longevity. I call it living history to enjoy into the next generation.”
Prices range from $75 to $300 and 80% are under $150. Come early for a complete selection.