Late last month before the holiday rush kicked in local artist and wood craftsman Jeff Foley of Bluegrass Woodworks made a trip to the Governor’s Mansion in Frankfort to deliver the Beshears some of the wooden hand-carved toys he had designed and crafted himself.
“I was just tickled to death and honored to have been a part of the day,” Foley said. “They even invited me back for another visit soon.”
Foley, a Russell County native and a Juried Kentucky Artisan Craftsman and a member of Kentucky Proud, said his toys, 23 of them to be exact, were placed under the Christmas tree at the mansion by Ann Evans, executive director of the mansion. Alisha N. Norris, also a Russell County native, was also present at the mansion during Foley’s visit.
Foley’s fiancee, Kim Hunley, joined him on the trip.
Evans admired the detail of the toys that Foley brought and donated to the mansion and also told Foley that Kentucky First Lady Jane Beshear went immediately to the toys following her return from a birthday party.
“The toys will stay at the governor’s mansion from now on,” he said. “Every governor from now on will have those toys for children to play with, be it dignitaries’ children or their own.”
Foley said Evans treated him and his fiancee with such generosity and care during their visit and that he was looking forward to visiting the capital again in the near future.
“She told me that the donation of those toys would be recorded in the annuals of Kentucky history,” he said. “It will always be on record, during history studies, that artisan Jeff Foley donated these items.”
Foley said he made a special solid oak cornhole board for the first lady as a gift.
“It was hand-rubbed and had brass clasps on the side,” he said. “It was a nice piece.”
He said also wanted to thank former Sen. Vernie McGaha for all the guidance and help on getting him to Frankfort.
Foley discovered at an early age that working with wood would be an integral part of his life.
He has presented many of his wooden items at craft fairs and shows. Everything he makes is handmade with precision from products located in the hear of Kentucky.
“Over the years I have worked with many types of wood, gaining knowledge and respect for the trade,” he said. “I especially enjoy making wooden toys, essentially a lost art. Children love these toys, which are a refreshing change from mass production items.
Foley said he also enjoyed making wooden cornhole boards, trays and other trinkets.
“I enjoy meeting new friends and welcome visits to my shop for special commissioned items or just to chat,” Foley said. Foley’s work can be purchased at the Kentucky Proud Market at Rupp Arena, a good majority of Kentucky State Parks including Lure Lodge, The Appalachian Community Crafts in Barbourville, Ky., a craft specialty store in Lancaster, Ky., as well as Grider Drug here locally, he said.
His work can also be bought online at www.kentuckyproudmarket.com and by calling and visiting his Russell County location at Bluegrass Woodworks. Foley, who is also a Kentucky Colonel, can be reached at 270-585-2110.