by Britt Chester | @awfullybrittish

Pulling up a gravel road that leads to a horse stable, a barn, and a cozy residence, you’ll find Chico the rooster. The eight-foot standing metal poultry casts a long shadow onto the driveway; this commanding rooster once sat outside of a produce stand now sits as the greeter to Summer Oaks Craftworks headquarters.

When a woman in Kernersville opened a locally sourced produce stand, she reached out to Mike D. Caudle, co-owner of Summer Oaks alongside his mother, Dottie Pyrtle, to construct for her a mascot sign.

“Sue Williams saw it and came out and did a story on us,” Caudle, 47, said. Williams is a member of the Kernersville Chamber of Commerce, and she actually ended up commissioning Summer Oaks for a handful of custom pieces that she gifted to friends, and sold some to others.

The rooster may have caught the attention of one, but the real art is found in the intricate horse heads Caudle and Pyrtle work as a team to construct.

Pyrtle admits that she finds horses to be the “most beautiful creature god created,” and has been boarding horses on the property since 1998. She used to ride, but says she has satisfied that want now that she is 72-years-old.

The two-dimensional horse heads are wall-hanging pieces that range in size, from roughly 24 inches in diameter up to around 30 inches. Each piece is delicately laid out by Pyrtle and then welded together by her son, who is a self-taught welder.

She said that one quote, learned from her sister, a fantastic designer herself, has stuck with her: “Find a use for something other than its intended purpose.”

The idea for these pieces was born out of Caudle watching his father create hangers, napkin holders and other, simpler pieces out of horseshoes.

“We’ve always been crafty, or puttin’ stuff together or coming up with stuff for Christmas,” Caudle explains. “My mother and father worked with their hands. My grandmother sewed and my grandfather was a carpenter”¦.”

“If you’re a farmer, you’re good with your hands,” Pyrtle interjects.

Caudle may have started with horseshoes, but he has taken Summer Oaks to new heights with the implementation of their mutual creativity. On his wall hangs an orchestra of instruments. An ornate fiddle, a couple guitars, and then a stand-up bass, or what Caudle looks at as his magnum opus.

“That one is not for sale,” he said. “I mean, if the price is right, yes, but I like it too much to put a price on it right now.”

Truly, the stand-up bass is a masterpiece to take in. Outlined with one long piece of a conveyor belt he found in a scrap yard and filled with filigree-styled wrought iron, complete with long running strings – it’s easy to see why he’s so proud of the piece.

Pyrtle and Caudle have recently joined Art For Art’s Sake, the Winston-Salem nonprofit that hosts the Arts on Sunday event on Trade Street. They attended their first one recently and received great feedback, and managed to sell a few pieces in the process. Being so new to the art world and the business of art, Caudle and Pyrtle are taking their time in settling into the job. They currently have pieces hanging in 4 th and Trade.

Pyrtle’s history in Winston-Salem dates back to Henry’s Grill and Henry’s Coffee Shop. She, alongside her husband, started the original restaurants housed in what is now filled with Small Batch Brewery cisterns.

True to form, Pyrtle’s quote picked up from her sister has managed to thread itself throughout their new found passion. Her love of horses, and Mike’s skills as a craftsman, have found a use for something – horses – other than its intended purpose. Unless appreciation is what horses are truly meant for, in which case, it all comes full circle. !


Summer Oaks Craftworks pieces can be seen at or by searching for the company on Facebook. Email MikeDCaudle@ or