Pens Celebrate Co-op Culture

Willie Wiredhand pens are worth writing home about

Bret Curry takes about four hours to build his Willie Wiredhand pens, which are sold in the AECC company store in Little Rock. (Photo By: Denny Gainer)
Bret Curry takes about four hours to build his Willie Wiredhand pens, which are sold in the AECC company store in Little Rock. (Photo By: Denny Gainer)

When Bret Curry of the Arkansas Electric Cooperative Corp. is looking for peace and quiet, he likes to hole down in his woodworking shop with his tools and a friend by the name of Willie Wiredhand.

By day Curry is the manager of residential energy marketing for the Little Rock-based G&T and statewide association. In his spare time, he crafts high-end pens, and his latest creations are geared for the cheerful co-op mascot’s legions of fans.

Curry has long been creating specially-themed pens that he donates to local charities for fundraisers. At silent auctions, “Pens by Bret” go as high as $300.

“Bidders have an opportunity to buy a unique quality pen while helping a local charity,” said Curry, who admits he gets a thrill when a bidding war breaks out for one of his creations.

Willie Wiredhand is Curry’s latest inspiration.

Coworker Lori Burrows wanted to thank members for participating in an oral history project on rural electrification. She knew about Curry’s hobby and asked if he would incorporate Willie—for which the statewide has licensing rights—on his pens.

Bret Curry displays some of his handiwork during a recent visit to NRECA. (Photo By: Denny Gainer)

Curry was happy to oblige and made several dozen limited edition Willie Wiredhand pens.

“People raved about them,” said Burrows, vice president and general counsel at the G&T and statewide association. “I have a personal affinity for good writing pens, and we are big fans of Willie around here.”

Look at one of Curry’s creations and you’ll realize that it doesn’t belong buried in a handbag, next to crumpled Kleenex and a mobile phone.

One pen takes about four hours to build. Most begin as a 1 inch by 1 inch by 6 inch square block of exotic wood or acrylic. Using a wood shaping machine called a lathe, he whittles it down to a specified diameter.

Willie’s body consists of 19 tiny laser-cut pieces that Curry, wearing two pairs of reading glasses for accuracy, inlays onto a wooden body, also laser-cut.

“My goal is not to make a profit, but to give back to the community and celebrate the co-ops. Willie pens are built to use and [as] keepsakes, too, to promote our mascot, message and culture for years to come.” said Curry, who enjoys the workshop in his Heber Springs weekend getaway home.

“It’s a place to unwind, get away from the rat race and find some serenity.”

If you’re interested in a pen from the AECC company store, please call Sandy Trantham at (501) 570-2200. To find out about customized pens for personal use or fundraising, please email Bret Curry at

Victoria A. Rocha is a staff writer for NRECA.