DOT Worker’s Talent Shines in Side Projects

His Unique Birdhouses Were Featured Recently on WMUR’s Chronicle

Ray

When Ray Ellis was young, he was — like many kids — very artistic, painting and drawing. But like many adults, the 33-year Department of Transportation employee packed away those talents as he got older.

“I never got to do that stuff in my line of work, so it just sat and I didn’t use it,” he said.

Ellis may still not use his artistic talents for work with the DOT, but he found an outlet and his work — on birdhouses of all things — is drawing attention.

Ellis, who does night weather patrol for the DOT, said his background is generally to “take care of everything.” He handles all the maintenance on facilities in District 6 for his job, and at home he likes to keep busy, tinkering in his workshop. His local celebrity as a birdhouse artist happened somewhat by chance.

“This birdhouse thing was a hobby that started with me, building them for my wife,” Ellis said. “I was buying materials and I didn’t want to throw them away.”

Instead, he turned those materials — things like license plates, ceiling tiles and doorknobs — into unique, eye-catching birdhouses.

“When we moved to Deerfield from Epping, people started stopping by to ask where we got the birdhouses, and my wife would tell them ‘my husband made them for me,’” Ellis said.

Later, he was asked to participate in the Deerfield Artists Tour and things took off from there. Fans of his work eventually reached out to WMUR, which sent a crew to film a segment for New Hampshire Chronicle.

“They did a really nice job,” Ellis said. “They came down on a Friday afternoon, and spent four hours filming for that five-minute segment.”

When the crew was there, they said he looked familiar and indeed he was to them — he’d been on Chronicle before for his part-time job at Charmingfare Farm, where he plays several characters. Much like the birdhouses, how he got involved in that job involves his wife and a bit of chance (and a resemblance to a certain jolly old elf).

“My wife worked there full-time, and they suggested I might be good at filling some roles,” Ellis said.

The biggest role? The big man himself, Santa Claus.

“I started doing Santa and Farmer Ray, plus the sap house thing, explaining how to do maple syrup,” Ellis said.

Of course he’s not really Santa, just one of Santa’s helpers. This year, he’ll be getting a little help, as work conflicts have forced him to work only part of the day at Charmingfare Farm. It’s a busy schedule, but the 77-year-old said he likes to stay busy.

He said the notoriety since the Chronicle story has been a bit crazy. Usually, he’d open up his shop to sell birdhouses or his other specialty — old radios rewired and converted to Bluetooth receivers — on Saturdays from 9-5. That’ll have to be on hold for a moment, though.

“Usually I have pieces to sell, but since Chronicle, people have bought everything,” he said. “They were buying radios and birdhouses. They were even buying pictures off the wall.”

Just like Santa, he’s working hard to restock his workshop for anyone looking for a unique gift.

“Whenever I’m not working,” he said, “I’m out here working. I like it that way.”

You can watch the excellent Chronicle story on Ray Ellis at www.wmur.com.

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