Instead of throwing out fallen limbs from your yard, send them off for a new pen.
James Miller, owner of Millermark Pens, takes his hobby of "making something artistic from a hunk of wood" into a small business of creating and selling pens and pencils made from various types of wood.
"I started out making (pens) as gifts," Miller said, adding by word-of-mouth, more people started requesting the unique writing utensils. "It's fun and interesting."
About eight years later, Miller's pen collection includes an assortment made from North Carolina native trees, such as walnut, American Wormy Chestnut, maple, heart pine, dogwood, poplar, oak, cedar and sumac. In addition, the pen creator has also started making writing utensils from muscadine, grape and mountain honeysuckle vines.
"I have carefully handcrafted a precise method of turning vines into functional, fine art," said Miller, 45, of Boomer. "I leave sections of the grapevine's bark intact for added beauty, character and artistic effect."
Other pens and pencils created come from exotic wood, such as Purple Heart, Yellowheart, Zebra, Ebony, olive and mahogany. Miller has even created pens from deer antlers, coffee beans, an old cutting board and split peas.
Recently, Miller said he's seen an increase in requests for custom pen orders. He's created pens, pen and pencil sets and pen stands using old family tomato sticks; corn cobs from a garden; a board from a relative's old house or shed; a tree limb from an Oak tree where a tire swing hung; and even a plank from a boat, dock or fishing pier.
Miller's pens take 30 minutes to about 2 hours to make. The pens are priced based on how long it takes to create, and costs range from $25-$65. The pens range in width to accompany each person's grip.
To see Miller's assortment of pens and purchase some for yourself or as gifts, visit his booth at Saturday's Music and Mud festival at the Newton-Conover Auditorium. The festival is 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. and is free to the public.
Sponsors for this year's event include The Observer News Enterprise and Outlook, Medicap Pharmacy, Newton-Conover City Schools, Outlaw Pottery, Jim and Peggy Templeton, Hyperformance Graphics, The Trott House Inn, Matthews Construction, Special Events Services, BB&T Newton-Main, United Arts Council of Catawba County, Woodlief Electric, The Cove Church and Pin Station.
The O-N-E will highlight various artists in each edition leading up to Music and Mud. For more information, visit www.newton-conoverauditorium.org  or call (828) 464-8100.
To learn more about Millermark Pens, visit www.millermarkpens.com .