Making his mark in metal

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by Claire Allison

At the end of the working day, Stuart Mitchell swaps white overalls for blue and meat for metal.

With welder in hand, Mitchell turns an assortment of scrap metal into works of art.

The Ashburton butcher is making a name for himself throughout New Zealand as a creator of repurposed metal artworks, from small fantails to life-sized bull tahr, and an assortment of creatures in between.

While others see old shearer’s combs and cutters, Mitchell sees feathers, tow balls become eyes, and lengths of chain a horse’s mane.

Items destined to become scrap metal take on a new life under Mitchell’s artistic eye, and customers are snapping up his creations.

It was not what Mitchell expected when he first began tinkering about in the garage a few years ago.

“I like fiddling around in the garage. I hate seeing waste and I was down the road at an estate sale, and there were boxes of old gardening tools there that were going to scrap metal.

“I thought there must be something you can do with these, to give them a new lease of life.”

So Mitchell began putting a few things together, making some small birds, and eventually challenging himself with more elaborate creations.

A friend invited him to exhibit in Ashburton, and he started getting a bit of a name for himself, and people requested commissions.

Last year, he won first place at the Rural Arts Festival at Kimbolton, north of Feilding, with a full-sized bull tahr sculpture. That found a home with a Palmerston North purchaser.

There is always some regret when one of his works finds a new home.

“I’d love to keep them all, but that’s a bit selfish, they should be shared around.

“I like making them and particularly like it when people start looking at them a bit closely, and they can see the tools and pieces they used to use on the farm, the components.

“When I’m welding, I’m not trying to cut pieces to fit holes, I’m trying to find the right pieces for the shape.”

Mitchell is exhibiting for the first time in Timaru at York Street Gallery.