BISBEE — If you have seen someone collecting tumbleweed along fence lines and wondered why, it is because a Hereford couple creates amazing sculptures and jewelry from the prolific, prickly, pesky weed.

Walter and Doris Husbands opened a shop a month ago called Tumblestone Mining Co. on Naco Road as you enter Old Bisbee. They offer their one of a kind multi–colored bracelets, earrings, compact mirrors made from “tumblestone.” The jewelry looks like shocked minerals with bands of textures and colors going every which way and looks like stone.

The idea came to Walter on a road trip.

“I’m from Arizona, she’s from South Carolina,” he said. “We were driving in east Texas and she saw her first tumbleweed crossing the road and didn’t know what it was.

“I told her to just hit it. People get in accidents trying to avoid them. Just nail it and it will fall apart. Well, she hit it and it didn’t fall apart at all. It got caught in the grill and we dragged it about mile. She had never seen a tumbleweed.”

He got out of the car and removed it from the grill.

“I was thinking, I wonder if I can stick that together,” he said. “At first it was a hobby, then it got weirdly obsessive, now we do it full time.”

So, they chose to move to Arizona for the tumbleweed, the base material of their enterprise, and started looking around. They lived in Scottsdale for a while and that is where their wholesale business began.

“Once it became self–sustaining, we were able to go wherever we wanted to. So, we picked here,” Walter said. “We looked around for a cool place to live and start a shop. What better place, honestly, than Bisbee.”

Now, they have a “successful, bustling wholesale business” that takes their art around the state to various shops at airports and touristy gift shops, like at the Grand Canyon. But he wanted a brick and mortar store and Old Bisbee seemed like the best place to showcase his work.

The store is themed around organic Southwestern art and features work done by Tamala Willsey and Austin Bacak of Old West Alchemists, who make merchandise from the various items found on the ground in the desert. Willsey makes striking earrings out of wood, seeds, bones and feathers. Bacak responded to a help-wanted ad Husbands placed and they have worked together ever since.

Hanging from the ceiling of the shop are several huge tumbleweeds which have been sufficiently tumbled so the prickly parts are gone and just has stems and branches. These are taken and stained each color individually in preparation of the compression part of the process.

The tumbleweeds are stained and dried prior to the compression process, which reduces the size. The final compression applies tens of tons pressure to the tumbleweed and the resin that holds it in place. When it is done, it is polished cut into the various sizes needed.

It takes about six weeks to go from raw material to a store product. The edges are ground at the store in a small loft office where Doris puts on the finishing touches and mounts them.

“If you can imagine a 55-gallon drum full of tumbleweed that has been stripped of any prickers and washed, I turn that into the size of a house brick,” Walter explained. “It then goes into an autoclave for the dying process. At first, I just said ‘we’ll soak them,’ but the dye doesn’t take. It only goes into maybe the first fraction of a millimeter and it will leave the finished product brown.”

He tried using a vacuum process to force the air out, which he thought would push the dye into the tumbleweed. It did not work.

“The whole thing blew up,” Walter laughed. “I had blue dye on half of me. I had to go to work the next day half blue.”

It was not easy to take the idea from the drawing board. In fact, it took quite a while for him to hit on the right press to incase the weed in resin to create an original “tumblestone.” He started with jigs and clamps and quickly discovered that was not going to work.

He built a wooden press and then ran his car over it thinking that would be enough weight to work, but it did not. He bought a 5-ton bench press, but it did not work well enough either.

“We had a lot of ups and downs about dyeing,” Walter said. “Then we bought a 100-ton commercial press and it finally worked.

“If anyone owns a tumblestone, I made it.”

Apparently, the Husbands are the only source for tumbleweed jewelry in the U.S. However, there is a man in Scotland who is making similar things out of dyed heather.

Walter also made two stunning tumblestone sculptures — a coyote and a steer skull — which shows even more the talent involved in making this art.

Now, he has plenty of tumbleweed in various stages of the process.

“It’s been going good,” he said. “We’ve never had our own retail spot. So, we’re very, very excited.”

There was group of ladies looking at the merchandise and their husbands in cowboy hats were standing behind them, looking fumed. One told Husbands, “Do you know how much I spend getting rid of them and my wife is about to buy some from you?”

Husbands laughed and said, “At this point in my life, I can pick whatever I do. It’s an astronomically amount of work. And I picked this. That’s messed up.”