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Utah Arts Festival: Metal with a (re)purpose

Published July 10, 2013 10:12 am

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

A recurring theme has surfaced in the Artists Marketplace at the Utah Arts Festival: If it's made of metal, there's a good chance it was something else once.

For John Zimmerman of Ridgway, Colo., silverware becomes sculpture. At Fat Cat Studio in Taylor, Texas, vintage tins become earrings and necklaces. Devin Johnson of Minneapolis, Minn., turns all manner of salvaged metal — coins, license plates, car parts — into jewelry. And Kelly Phipps of Hood River, Ore., cuts detailed filigree patterns into shovel blades, a wheelbarrow and the hood of an old tractor.

Why metal? "Probably because it lasts longer," said Zimmerman, who has created a cactus out of fork blades and a "spoon-apple" — a pineapple made from spoons.

CeRee Hellums, who runs Fat Cat Studio with her partner Kari Stringer (who didn't make the trip to Utah), said they use tins that date back to the 1970s and earlier. The coolest patterns are often found on containers that once held candy, cookies and tobacco. "All the stuff that was bad for you was put in a tin back then," she said.

A lot of the time and effort of such art is in finding the scrap metal that will be turned into art objects.

Zimmerman said that whenever he visits a town, he goes to the local thrift stores to find old silverware. Hellums scours antique stores for her tins. And Johnson every weekend hits a metal reclamation plant near Minneapolis to find items worthy of recutting into wrist cuffs and other items.