Nerves ran through Kyle Tullos as he glanced down from the roughly 35-foot ladder during his first day of onsite training with a company called Rain Away Gutters. One of his new coworkers stood on the ground holding the ladder steady as a second teammate balanced on a second ladder beside Tullos while the both of them hung gutters at the client’s Lauderdale, Miss., house on that summer afternoon in 2017.
Tullos accepted a position with Rain Away at the recommendation of his father’s friend, who asserted that Tullos would not need to know much about the work entailed beforehand and that he simply needed to “just show up.” After he arrived, a man named Kevin Hill gave Tullos a quick rundown on how to hang gutters, which Tullos found easy enough to understand. At that point, the job seemed relatively simple, he thought.
The other shoe dropped when Hill showed Tullos the ladder he would need to use to actually hang gutters, which required a three-person crew to make use of alongside the gutter cleaner. Unfortunately for Tullos, who is afraid of heights, Hill assigned him to the cleaning position, meaning he had to grit his teeth and stand atop the high ladder.
“There I was, more than 30 feet off the ground and shaking like a leaf on a tree,” Tullos recalled. “The only thing going through my mind at the time was ‘Don’t fall.’ Needless to say, the year or so I spent with Rain Away Gutters was not exactly fun.”
Despite his fear of heights, which never faded no matter how long he continued scaling ladders for Rain Away, Tullos pushed through for the sake of his daughters, Preslee and Lynnlee. Preslee was born with cerebral palsy and a seizure disorder while Lynnlee was born with craniosynostosis, a birth defect in which the bones in a baby’s skull join together too early. Both children have required various surgeries since infancy, and Tullos has worked hard to give them all the care they need as a single father.
After a year of fearful ladder climbing, however, Tullos decided he was tired of working for other people doing things he hated. Instead, he began looking into going into business for himself. He considered a number of possible ventures—including pressure washing, T-shirt making and crafting vinyl graphics for use on cars—before settling into making handmade plaques for homes in early 2018. Even then, he continued his search for a craft he could truly call his own.
“I was looking around online for things I could use my tax returns for in order to open my own business,” Tullos told the Mississippi Free Press. “I wanted to find something I could start with a few thousand dollars that would be profitable and that I could get into.”
Tullos’ breakthrough came when he found a computer numerical control machine—a device that processes materials via coded programmed instructions without the need of a manual operator—from a company called Blue Elephant that he could use for sign making. The CNC Router uses sandblasting to create designs.
Sandblasting uses compressed air from a compressor run through a high-pressure hose alongside a blasting medium such as sand, powdered glass or wood chips. One use of sandblasting involves putting a stencil on a glass or metal object before blasting it to carve a design into its surface. Sandblasters can also strip off paint or clean dirty metal.
After his sandblaster arrived from overseas, Tullos spent the next two months teaching himself how to operate it and learning what kind of products he could create with it. Confident that he had found the craft he had been looking for, Tullos opened Carvings ’N’ Creations (9314 Lauderdale-Toomsuba Road, Lot 5) in Lauderdale in early 2018.
In addition to making custom signs and plaques, Tullos has since expanded into custom glass and plate etching and powder coating. Powder coating involves connecting a wire to a sandblaster nozzle that applies a negative electric charge to a medium such as powdered paint that comes out of it while applying a positive charge to an object meant to be coated. The powder then becomes attracted to the object’s surface, ensuring an even coating. Tullos has also learned to use epoxy resin to create coatings for wooden surfaces and small objects such as trophies.
Tullos’ big break came in 2021 when a group of sailors stationed on the USS Fort Lauderdale approached him with a request to craft a sign for their ship as a surprise for their captain. The group commissioned a 4-by-4 sign inscribed with information on the ship that the crew could hang up in the mess hall. Tullos decided to begin with a large piece of plywood that he stained before running it through his CNC machine and sandblasting elaborate decorative designs of coconuts and flowers to accompany the text. As the sign would be in the mess hall, Tullos also drilled holes along the edges of the sign for hooks on which the crew could hang mugs.
“I learned that those guys had driven four hours out from the coast to Lauderdale to commission this sign from me after they’d learned of my work,” Tullos said. “It makes me so happy that not only did they go that far to seek me out, but now there’s a Navy ship sailing somewhere out there in the world carrying something I made on it. It’s that kind of thing that makes me glad I decided to pursue self employment and making my own craft. I have something I feel like I can hand down to my daughters now and teach them they can make their own way too.”
For more information on Carvings ’N’ Creations, call 769-219-9345 or visit its business page on Facebook.
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