Tony Carr Jr. is proof it is possible to make a living as an artist.
The owner of Tony’s Garden Art on Main Street in North Augusta has traveled the globe, including Italy, Africa and England.
Carr, 45, produces original artwork and does restoration work for galleries and museums, as well as archeologists, collectors, local parks and recreation departments.
“This started out as a hobby, but now it’s a career. They say if you do something you love for a living, you’ll never work a day in your life,” Carr said.
The self-taught artist works in a variety of mediums, from glass, copper, pottery, stone, paper and antique bottles from the 1800s. He also dabbles in drawings and photography.
“I take something that no one wants and turn it into something that someone cherishes,” he said.
Among his collection, Carr has created glass mosaics, custom mirrors, copper baskets, hot glass beads, stone heads and religious crosses. Some of his art represents his Native American heritage and love for palm trees.
Depending on the size of the piece, it can take him a few weeks to several months to complete it.
Carr has been working as a full-time artist for six months, but he started his company 11 years ago, operating part time as he worked as an AutoCAD drawer for his father’s land surveying and engineering company, Tony Carr Sr. & Associates, and later Savannah River Site and other local companies. He took the leap of faith to become a full-time artist when his last job ended.
“I’m loving every minute of it. I go to bed with a smile and wake up with a smile,” Carr said. “It’s the best time of my life.”
Jenks Farmer, the owner of Lush Life Gardens in Beech Island,, has worked with Carr for about eight years. Farmer is the founding horticulturist at Moore Farms Botanical Garden.
Carr has created custom hanging baskets, plant containers and outdoor lighting fixtures for Moore Farms and Farmer’s private garden in Charleston, S.C.
“It’s pretty much a collaboration. I think that’s a great business arrangement,” Farmer said. “A lot of artistic people are a little hard to motivate. Tony has the best of both ends. He’s professional and businesslike and artistic.”
Carr started selling his work to galleries 16 years ago. He credits an owner at Art on Broad for giving him his start.
Despite the weak economy, Carr said he has a steady clientele.
“There’s still people out there that don’t mind, even with hard economic times, they want to have beautiful things around them,” he said.
“Thank God for people who still support the arts.”
His business faced challenges after 9/11, he said.
“Half of the stores that I dealt with went under,” Carr said. “It was really crazy. Then I refocused on doing a lot of custom and artistic pieces.”