Welder artist turns scrap metal into whimsical sculptures
HOPE—Long abandoned shovels, rusted chains, nuts, bolts and other broken tools that no longer have use are Wayne Twitchell’s favorite things to find when he’s out moseying around at yard sales and second hand stores. Almost 50 years ago Twitchell started a career in welding with a South Portland cement plant. He moved on after that, he honing his welding skills with Fischer Engineering and Bath Iron Works and was the recipient of the Navy’s Aegis Excellence Award for welding.
About 30 years ago, a chance discovery would spur a creative side he didn’t even know he had.
“I’d come across an old tooth off an excavator and I thought it looked like Gumby,” he said. I put legs on it; a face and I liked it. I’ve been making stuff ever since.”
Now retired, Twitchell mostly goes searching for scrap materials and works on them in the warmer months.
“Nowadays, you can’t pick the dump, and scrap dealers are real tight; they don’t want you wandering around the scrap yard,” he said. “The thing is, back in the 1970s and 1980s they welcomed you. Who knows? But anyway, I hit yard sales a lot and I buy some stuff from Goodwill I can use.”
Even though metal is harder to come by, he still relishes a good find now and then.
“I work with steel,” he said. “Or anything a magnet can stick to I can probably make something out of it.”
Twitchell’s shop adjacent to his home in Hope is a thing of wonder to behold. Thousands of pieces of scrap metal have been collected over the years, hanging from the rafters, crowding the shelves and covering every square inch of his shop.
Asked what types of creatures he makes now, he answered, “Well, it depends on what I find.”
Take the shovels, spades and chain links he collected: He made a giant frog out of them and painted it green. Next to that is purple spider constructed of tire irons with a trailer ball hitch for a head. Twitchell unearths a couple of “Springer Spaniels” he made from the dark recesses of the shop, made from cast iron springs with bolts for eyes.
Twitchell teaches a five-week “Ornamental Welding” class through Five Town Adult and Community Education.
“I used to teach down in Rockland’s Midcoast School of Technology for about 10 years, and people who came to my classes were looking to use those skills in their trade,” he said. “Today, I just teach people how to weld for art’s sake.”
Twitchell had a full class this winter—all of them women.
“I’m quite amazed at what some of them build,” he said.
Twitchell doesn’t have a website and mainly sells his work to people driving by his house.
“I don’t even put up a for sale sign; they just stop,” he said. “One time, a van with North Carolina plates missed their turn and turned around in our driveway. As he was trying to back out, she was trying to get out of the van because she saw all of the stuff in the yard and by the time they left, the back of their van was full of my sculptures. And I had $400 in my wallet.”
You can also find his sculptures in the Maine Artisans store in Lincolnville Beach.
Kay Stephens can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org