Larry Levari: The Birdhouse Man of Vineland (VIDEO)Last Edited:
Though the saying is, “If you’re good at something, never do it for free,” 54-year-old Larry Levari is inclined to contend that notion.
Levari, a Vineland native, started making birdhouses five years ago. In that time, however, he has made quite a name for himself among community members, friends and family, and produces what many would consider true works of art.
Rather than take advantage of his skill and turn it into a means of income—as many people probably would—Levari doesn’t sell his houses.
He’s in it for the craftsmanship, and gives them to his family and friends.
“I like to do [them] just for the time that I put into them,” says Levari. “I enjoy doing them.”
You can’t make two the same.
While Levari admits that the houses generally hold no sentimental value to him, he is passionate about the process.
The arduous steps that go into making these houses from scratch are what have Levari hooked. He also says that the admiration from others plays a key role in his motivation.
“When I get done, it’s something that somebody’s going to see and enjoy, too,” he says. Knowing the happiness he can bring to others, he puts his talents on full display with each birdhouse. (Please note: Levari's birdhouses are not for sale.)
That happiness is important because even though these are birdhouses, they’re meant to be inside. The integrity of Levari's hard work is essential for people to truly realize just how meticulous his creations are.
Many of the houses he makes aren’t even given to anybody. Due to his passion for the process and the excruciating detail that goes into it, Levari often finds himself admiring his own work at home.
“I could sit and stare at it for hours and hours,” says Levari of one extraordinary piece. “It’s amazing how I can sit here and look at this thing.”
While only physically committing to the craft just five years ago, Levari has been intrigued by the process since he was a teenager. His heart was always in it; now, he finally gets to show it.
With one quick glance at some of his work, it would be easy to assume that Levari creates scale models of actual places. This is a testament to the life he brings to each birdhouse.
In one particular case, Levari’s brother gave him the basic plywood framework for a house. Before he got to work on it, however, his brother informed him that he wanted it to be a barn. In order to make it as accurate as possible, Levari drove around the area to take pictures of local barns for inspiration. When he finally found a style he liked, he quickly got to work.
I could sit and stare at it for hours and hours. It’s amazing how I can sit here and look at this thing.
This is when Levari began to make the piece truly special.
While observing the barns around town, he noticed that a lot of them were just stuffed with junk. He also noticed that many of them had various road signs and store signs covering their walls; so, he went to the nearest flea market and began looking for miniature signs and tools.
The finished product included farm tools, signs ranging from license plates to faded Pepsi signs, and even a miniature tractor. Levari also included a personal touch that even his brother would appreciate.
“I started making signs with our family names on it,” Levari says. “All my uncles are in there, [as well as] my grandfather, my great-grandfather, and my father. That’s what made it personal for me.”
The barn isn’t just an isolated incident, however. Levari has also made a Harley-Davidson shop, which included a gas pump bearing the famed logo and a motorcycle in the garage. The shop even included working gutters on its sides.
“I made a tobacco shop that had a cigar for the sign,” says Levari. “I made an antique store that had all metal signs that I actually found at the flea market.”
Even the frames of these houses can vary tremendously. Levari has used gas cans, lampshades and other random items and turned them into detailed birdhouses.
“They’re all different,” he says. “There are none really the same. You can’t make two the same.”
The uniqueness of each piece further shows how personal the process can be for Levari.
Though he crafts with precision, the creative process is often impulsive and calculated all at once. When he’s constructing each house, he may have a change of heart about a certain design feature, or he may feel the need to add something. Every house gives a glimpse of how Levari felt at each exact moment of its inception.
The amount of time it takes to finish a house can vary—as one can imagine—depending on the amount of detail that Levari includes. Some can take up to two days or months.
Among the many phases included in making a house, his personal favorite is actually one of the first—making the foundation.
“It’s just neat how I can put it all together and make it look real,” Levari said.
He added that for one of the houses, he used real stone for the foundation. He crushed the stone to create smaller pieces, so the finished product is essentially an actual stone foundation, just smaller. He even added mud grout between the pieces of stone.
No matter how much praise his work garners, Larry Levari remains as humble as they come. To him, it’s nothing more than passion—something that everyone has in one way or another.
“There’s no science to it,” he said. “It’s just, ‘Put it together.’”
Watch past In Their Shoes videos on the In Their Shoes page.
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