LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB)---The Kentucky Derby is not only about the horses. There's also the fashion and the hats!
One man is making a lasting statement with his Derby creations.
Chris Ramsey threw his hat into the ring 20 years ago to become a woodturner.
"I really enjoy it. It's an evolution if you will," says Chris Ramsey.
His current passion for carving wooden hats was actually an accident.
"I turned a form that kinda looked like a hat , and so I started trying to make hats, and I guess the rest is history," he says.
In a small workroom in his Somerset basement, the transformation happens, as he turns a piece of wood into a hat for the Kentucky Derby.
"When I take off too much, it's over. Game over...get a new piece of wood," he told us as he turned a piece of wood into a hat.
From sizing the customer, to shaping and bending, it takes him 35 hours to complete a hat.
"It needs to be just a hair thicker than a credit card," he says.
He is meticulous in his work.
"You can't see the true color of the wood right now, but it's going to be just beautiful," Ramsey says.
His creations don't stop there. For every hat, he makes a mini-hat, and a finished frame with a mirror inside. He has also made other pieces of artwork out of the wood, each as unique as the wood he turns on the lathe.
"Sometimes I'll just pull in the driveway and there will be a piece of wood sitting there that the wood ferries dropped off," Ramsey says.
But, it's the wooden hats that have really grabbed the attention of celebrities.
"Wynona, Kenny Chesney, Tubby Smith," he says.
Even former President George W. Bush is a fan.
"Before I knew it, I got a call from the President of the United States to go and visit him in the Oval Office and present him with a hat, and he's got 5 of them now", Ramsey says.
Ramsey admits it's a long and messy process to do the job he does.
However, he says it's worth the time he gives.
The artwork isn't only leaving a lasting impression on customers, but also on the artist himself.
"It's all fun. I am very blessed that God has put me in this position to have fun and get paid for it. Off to Derby we go," says Chris Ramsey.
Ramsey says he will soon start working on his next hat, which will be for country singer Willie Nelson.
For more information on the hats and Ramsey's artwork, click here.
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