In our monthly Made in the Tri-States feature, we highlight some of the area’s signature products.
Watch for new installments on the first Sunday of each month. If you have a suggestion of a product or company for us to feature, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
LOCATION: Cassville, Wis.
PRODUCTS: Unique wood and metal creations
CONTACT: 608-577-3615 or email@example.com
ONLINE: Check out Big River Rustics on Facebook
CASSVILLE, Wis. — When Tammi Droessler takes a moment to reflect on this point in her life, she realizes she is precisely where she wants to be.
That realization applies in both a physical and conceptual sense.
Droessler takes comfort in the fact that she is creating unique works of art in her retirement, finally tapping in to her artistic and creative side after a successful career. She also is soaking in the moments where she works side by side with her mother, as they jointly make the products sold by Droessler’s company, Big River Rustics.
But she also is pleased by where she is in a literal way. Droessler lives in a home formerly owned by her grandparents, located in close proximity to the Mississippi River.
And the nearby river serves as a big inspiration for the products she makes.
“I love the river. I grew up fishing and swimming, and I have always enjoyed it,” she said. “And I love the different parts of the river — the fish, the rocks, the woods that surround it. I want to bring those things to life.”
Droessler has brought that vision to reality with Big River Rustics, a business that she operates out of her home in Cassville.
Big River Rustics sells a variety of wood and metal art, frequently accommodating custom orders and often using materials straight from the river or its banks.
The process typically starts with the wood.
Droessler picks out the ideal piece of wood — anything from beaver trimmings from trees, to barnboard, to railroad ties — and cuts it to the proper size. She stains or paints the wood, a process that sometimes incorporates the artistic touch of her mother.
“My mom is my painter,” Droessler explained. “I am more of a rough artist. She is my fine detailer.”
Big River Rustics then incorporates metal into its pieces, often using it to spell out words or create specific designs. The business creates a variety of finished products — some of which spell out the names of local sports teams, others of which pay homage to area towns or serve as decorations for the holiday season.
Droessler hasn’t always been able to spend her time creating these works of art.
She was educated in accounting and business and went on to land a job in the Wisconsin Department of Revenue. Later, she took on a role as a police officer in Madison.
Eventually, Droessler felt like her body was getting worn down by the job. On another level, she was beginning to feel worn down by the emotional experience of her day-to-day work.
“When you are doing police work, you tend to be meeting people on their worst day,” she said. “With what I am doing now, it is so different. When people look at my work, I can see their joy.”
A partnership with a local eatery helped Big River Rustics take off.
Cassville restaurant Anker Inn Smokehouse began displaying Droessler’s products in early 2020.
“It was the beginning of the pandemic, and we were at half capacity, so we had a lot of negative space. Things felt gloomy,” recalled owner Jamie Duvall. “We decided to bring some of her stuff in here to make things a bit cheerier.”
Duvall said the items from Big River Rustics have been a permanent fixture since. The pieces frequently draw interest and comments from customers, who often purchase some of the creations to take home.
Duvall isn’t surprised by the warm reception. She noted that she has taken a liking to the products from Big River Rustics.
“It’s not the kind of stuff you’d find in a store,” she said. “It’s so original. We have four or five items in our own house.”
During the past couple of years, Duvall developed an appreciation for the person behind the art.
“(Droessler’s) love for the community is so big,” Duvall said. “She is so community-oriented and so kind.”
The appreciation goes both ways.
Droessler believes Anker Inn has been a key part of spreading the word about the unique products she makes.
“So much of my business has been word of mouth,” Droessler said. “When people like what I make, they tell somebody else. And my customers keep coming back to me.”
After retiring from police work, Droessler is finding comfort in her retirement gig. She is enjoying her spot by the river and finding peace in work that doesn’t feel like work.
“When I am out in the shop working on things, it is a good day,” she said.