Made in the South Awards: Outdoors

Winner: Hollifield Bamboo Fly Rods

Runners-Up: a fire pit from Deus Modern, landing nets by HeartWood Trade, and axes from Richardson Axeworks

Photo: Jennifer Causey

The Winner

Hollifield Bamboo Fly Rods
Fly Rods
Sapphire, North Carolina

Rare even among bamboo rod makers, John Hollifield handcrafts every component of his custom rods from
raw materials, except for the line guides. He cuts, planes, and heat-straightens each quarter-inch bamboo strip from a twelve-foot length of traditional Tonkin cane, and glues each section to a taper he designs. He turns the reel seats out of silver, steel, or titanium and the ferrules from nickel silver tubing. He hand wraps the rattan grips and finishes each one with multiple coats of spar varnish. He’d make the guides, too, he insists, if he had a way to heat-treat titanium in his Sapphire, North Carolina, shop.

That level of detail alone is impressive, but add Hollifield’s gold inlays and meticulous engravings and you end up with an astonishing piece of fishing art. Very few rod makers engrave their own work by hand, and Hollifield’s reliefs of leaping trout, buffalo, and mayflies—some set against backdrops of twenty-four-karat gold—bring to mind bespoke shotguns. And while he has shipped rods as far afield as South Africa and Mongolia, he still feels that their natal waters are the small creeks he grew up fishing in the Southern Appalachians, where the slower actions of a bamboo rod are a perfect fit for casting dry flies into tight, laurel-shaded streams.

The Runners-Up

Deus Modern
Fire Pit
Nashville, Tennessee
$199 in mild steel; $299 in stainless steel

David Grisham had just finished dinner when he had a flash of insight. “My mind runs a little free at night,” he says, “and the idea for a flat-pack fire pit had been stewing in my head for months.” He bolted to the recycling bin, pulled out a Miller High Life carton, and cut out the first mock-up of the Fireflower Fire Pit. A licensed architect, avid backpacker, and camping devotee, Grisham is drawn to functional gear with a minimal footprint and a sleek design. So he drafted three laser-cut steel plates built with slots, the pieces fitting together to form a geometric bowl or flower. The tool stacks flat when disassembled, and the handles make the twenty-four-pound fire pit easy to carry briefcase-style while car camping or tailgating. An add-on grill top turns the pit into a nifty outdoor cooker.

Jennifer Causey

HeartWood Trade
Landing Nets
Austin, Texas

A few years ago, when motion graphic designer Dustin Scott booked a fishing trip to Arkansas’s Little Red River, the guide advised him to bring a landing net. Scott, who spent his childhood puttering around his father’s wood shop, thought he’d try to make one. That first net he describes as “an elegant disaster,” but today, his customizable handmade nets, in various configurations, could steal the limelight from the sleekest brown trout. For the frames, he marries woods such as exotic padauk and wenge with strips of quarter-sawn sycamore—even old whiskey barrel staves. And he considers the buyer’s height and hand size and uses a rotary tool to shape finger grooves and palm swells on the grips. “I spend a lot of time in the digital world, where everything I create lives on a screen,” Scott says. “Now I get to create something that customers hold in their hands.”

Jennifer Causey

Richardson Axeworks
Birmingham, Alabama
$110–$250, complete; $50 axhead only

Chris Richardson understands not everyone loves splitting wood. “I like the feel of the ax in my hands,” he says, “but maybe that’s because it’s something I choose to do.” What he didn’t like was modern tools that didn’t perform. Richardson had read about antique ax head restoration, so he pulled out his grandfather’s old double-bit ax and went to work, grinding and sanding and polishing. One ax head led to more. When he posted pictures to Instagram, his hobby took on new life. Now Richardson and his wife, Katy, haunt flea markets for ax heads to refurbish, and clients can send him their own family heirlooms to spruce up as well. He sets the ax heads in either antique or custom shafts, or ones he sources from a Missouri handle maker, and customizes each with brands and a hand-rubbed finish—he prefers using a proprietary tobacco-infused oil.

Jennifer Causey


>> See the winners and runners-up in all six categories

>> Join us in Charleston for our Made in the South Weekend: Meet the makers and shop their products; enjoy a concert with Amanda Shires and Aaron Lee Tasjan; and more. Get details and tickets here