The peculiar world of metal sculpture

The odds have favored Missouri metal artist

The FABRICATOR January 2017
January 9, 2017
By: Amanda Carlson

A Missouri man’s fairly recent immersion in metal sculpture has yielded confidence and surprising results, at least to him.

The Peculiar Family—Irene, Max, and Paco—are made from old bicycles donated by one of Reddell’s friends.

The motto in Peculiar, Mo., a town located roughly 30 miles straight south of downtown Kansas City, is “Where the ‘odds’ are with you.” Well, the odds have certainly been with native resident Steve Reddell, especially recently. Some folks might even consider him to be a little peculiar because of his impressive collection of metal scrap that he refers to as “art supplies” while his wife refers to it as “junk.” That is until they realize what he does with it all.

The laid-back Reddell probably wouldn’t have any problem with that label. But one he’s still not all that comfortable with is the word artist. And don’t even think about calling his workshop a studio.

After spending most of his adult life repairing and restoring automobile bodies, specifically high-end foreign cars, Reddell has found this latest chapter involving metal art to be exciting but also difficult to fully accept.

“I Should Be Able to Do That”

Creativity hasn’t exactly eluded him up until this point. Aside from autobody repair, Reddell has painted motorcycle tanks, helmets, and Hot Wheels® cars—by his estimation he’s painted more of the tiny toy cars than anyone else in the world aside from Mattel®.

But it wasn’t until recently, when Reddell reflected on where his journey with metal art has taken him over the last several years, that he reconsidered the prospect that he is, indeed, an artist.

“It’s something I always wanted to do. The first show I ever did was in 2010 here in Peculiar. I had seen [metal sculptures] around all the time and always thought, ‘Hey, I should be able to do that,’ Reddell said.

In that first show he sold mostly small yard art pieces, but his success was enough to give him the confidence to continue. Using scrap metal parts, Reddell creates detailed whimsical creatures. He sketches out a design with the components in mind, joins them with gas metal arc welding (GMAW), and then paints them by hand to bring them to life (see Figures 1 and 2).

Many of the components he uses are intentionally recognizable (see Figure 3).

“I like to be able to still see what it was before it became a part of the sculpture. Whether it’s a part from a car or a tractor—and a lot of times people don’t know what they are—I like to keep them pretty much what they were, just turn them into something else.”

Honoring a Friend

Reddell was contacted to create a sculpture for display in an upstart art district in Peculiar. Using several bicycles that his friend gave him, he created “A Peculiar Family” (see lead photo), a piece that has turned out to be his most recognizable and one that has sentimental value on many levels.

Figure 1 and 2
Reddell’s painting experience helps bring his creations to life through color.

“Before I had finished them, my friend’s wife and daughter were killed by a drunk driver—the guy that gave me the bikes. Well, I was going to change the name then, but since I had already made Paco a boy, I didn’t want to change them. Two years later he was killed by a drunk driver.”

When Peculiar’s art district closed down, Reddell applied and was accepted to have “A Peculiar Family” put on temporary display in Ames, Iowa, at its Public Art Commission’s annual Outdoor Sculpture Exhibition in 2016. It won Best in Show, beating out six other sculptures in the downtown area.

To honor his friend, Reddell has pledged to make another bike-riding family and dedicate it to his friend’s memory.

There’s nothing peculiar about that, nor is his success surprising to those around Reddell. But to him, it is all still difficult to wrap his head around.

“The most surprising is that I’m actually starting to make it. I made a sign for Peculiar that has two large flowers on each side. I’m pretty proud of it, and I was surprised when they called and asked me to do it. This whole thing has been a surprise.”

Steve Reddell,

Figure 3
Reddell’s pieces allow the viewer to see each individual component, such as the golf clubs and motorcycle tank. The fun is to see how each totally unrelated component works in union to create the image of a tongue-wagging dog.

Amanda Carlson

Amanda Carlson

FMA Communications Inc.
2135 Point Blvd
Elgin, IL 60123
Phone: 815-227-8260

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The FABRICATOR is North America's leading magazine for the metal forming and fabricating industry. The magazine delivers the news, technical articles, and case histories that enable fabricators to do their jobs more efficiently. The FABRICATOR has served the industry since 1971.

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