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June 2012
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Rocky Point shining on the small screen

By JOSHUA ROBERTS jroberts@paducahsun.com

Eric Gorges, a TV show host and Detroit-based motorcycle-builder, said he lives a "blessed life" traveling the country picking up tips of the trade from eclectic artists and craftsmen.

Life isn't shaping up so bad for Paducah artist and businessman Chris Kelley, either.

Gorges, creator, producer and host of "A Craftsman's Legacy," and his crew spent two days last week at Kelley's Rocky Point Copper Stills, 5931 Oaks Road, filming for a 30-minute episode to air this fall on PBS -- Kentucky Educational Television locally.

The show will mark at least the third time Rocky Point has received national TV exposure. The local business, launched in 2011, has also been featured on the Discovery Channel's "Moonshiners" and National Geographic's "The Big Picture."

The attention shown Rocky Point has been great for business.

"I'm surprised more than anything, but of course, I feel honored," said Kelley, who runs Rocky Point from home with his 15-year-old son, Levi, a Graves County High School freshman. "For them to put us on a series is great."

The national attention has paid dividends by getting Rocky Point's name out to potential customers across the U.S.

"I don't ever hardly have to pay for advertising," Kelley said. "When National Geographic came out, I didn't have to advertise for 10 months straight. When 'Moonshiners' came out, well, I'm still getting calls from that.

"People have been finding me from that, and the internet and Facebook."

On Feb. 23, one of the days the "Craftsman's Legacy" crew was filming, Kelley had two 280-gallon stills in production, valued at $40,000 each, in his shop. One was bound for Mechanicsville, Maryland, and the other for Mellow Mushroom in Alexandria, Virginia, Kelley said.

"I thought at one point we had (peaked) and everything was going to be downhill from there," Kelley said. "But actually what happened is, because the laws in each state had laxed more, just like they have in Kentucky, micro-distilleries are able to open easier.

"I've hit a niche market to where I put out a lot of 200-, 250-, 300-gallon stills all over the United States."

Gorges said he was researching still production in Kentucky and came across Kelley's name. He worked as an apprentice alongside Kelley making two 55-gallon stills, valued at roughly $2,650 each, during filming.

The show's host, a "metal-shaper by trade," said he found common ground with Kelley and learned new skills while at Rocky Point.

"When I work with other metal workers, tinsmiths, coppersmiths, there's an automatic connection in the game," Gorges said. "Chris is working solely with copper and brazing most of his stuff; I work with mild steels mostly, welding most of my stuff.

"So, there's still a lot for me to learn, and the techniques he's using, some of them are really new to me."

"Legacy" has aired for three seasons, 13 episodes per season. The crew is currently shooting Season Four.

Gorges, who owns and operates Voodoo Choppers in Detroit, said the idea for the TV show came to him about six years ago. Ford is a sponsor.

The show has featured artists specializing in trades across a wide spectrum -- Season Three included a ceramist, master penman, sandcaster, yarn spinner, chocolatiers, and soap, flute, puppet, tool and duck decoy makers.

"The unfortunate thing today is that a lot of the younger generations don't really know how to work with their hands, and they don't want to," Gorges said.

"Working with your hands isn't necessarily dead. â ¦ But there's a disconnect within our society where people don't necessarily appreciate or understand what's involved with it anymore.

"We've migrated to this world of consumable items and you can pretty much buy and get anything immediately, without waiting, and it's one of a gazillion being made. We've really lost the appreciation for things handmade. The (artists) are out there, but people don't appreciate it the way they used to."

Gorges said he hopes to keep the show going for years to come, providing a national audience to skilled professionals and their work.

"I have a very deep appreciation and respect for people who work with their hands," he said. "I just want to learn and help other people learn and understand.

"The show's not really about me. It's about the craftsmen and their stories."

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