A recycled dream
Tennessee welder finds success one scrap at a time
A Tennessee artist and welder uses scrap metal parts to create one-of-a-kind metal sculptures.
|Lankford doesn't miss a detail, creating a horse complete with saddle, bit, stirrups, and horseshoes.|
They say that one man's junk is another man's treasure, but Eric Lankford never thought it would go this far. The 51-year-old propane manager from Dickson, Tenn., had no idea that merging his two passions—art and welding—would turn into more than a hobby, or that the pieces he rummages for, cuts, and then welds together would actually turn into something that people would want to have.
From a distance, Lankford's work may look like ordinary metal sculptures. But if you take a closer look, you can see that what give these sculptures their shape are items that we see every day. Two old lawn mower blades, one at the top and one on the bottom, and an old armature that had been removed from a vehicle starter are the basic elements of his popular biplane designs. You will notice his cowboy sculptures' arms are made from horseshoes and legs are made from both horseshoes and railroad spikes.
Like many artists, Lankford has always been interested in the arts. As a child he loved to make boats, airplanes, and motorcycles from clay and old model car parts. Later he was introduced to welding through the Future Farmers of America and took welding courses in high school. He kept up with it while performing small maintenance tasks in the shop on his farm.
About five years ago Lankford discovered a way to fuse his love of art with his fascination with welding after his son, also an artist, showed him some of the pieces he created from scrap metal. Lankford liked what he saw and wanted to try it using his own equipment. The result was a little metal man "with no personality and floppy arms" made from old chains.
|Artist Eric Lankford poses with the bluegrass quartet he sculpted for display in Holland Park, Dickson, Tenn.|
Now, in his spare time, Lankford likes to create sculptures as varied as horses and bulldozers and 9-foot-tall velociraptors and miniature four-piece bluegrass bands from parts found on old farm equipment, cars, lawn mowers, or whatever else he can find at the local recycling center or Stokes Steel in Dickson. He doesn't look for anything in particular, as long as it is something that he can weld. He takes his newly found treasures, cuts them with his plasma cutter, heats and bends them if necessary, and welds them using shielded metal arc welding (SMAW). He also owns a gas metal arc welding unit but prefers SMAW.
"That's what I was brought up on. I like the way it feels and the control I have with it." As he sifts through the different parts, he doesn't think about how he can alter them to fit a certain design because his ideas are inspired by the unique shapes that he finds. Lankford once found a wheel from an old corn planter and thought it looked a lot like the back wheel of a Harley-Davidson®. He set up the wheel and found the other pieces to fit the design.
"Sometimes I come up with an idea in my mind and then I'll find the pieces to fit. Sometimes I'll start digging through what I have and I'll look for a shape.
|The most challenging aspect of Lankford's favorite piece, the "Jurassic Park"-inspired raptor (shown with Eric and wife Gail), was wrapping the skin around the dino's 9-ft. frame.|
"My mind will just get on fire and all of a sudden I have six different sculptures to put together."
Building a Reputation
The word has gotten out around Tennessee and beyond regarding Lankford's talent for creating a broad spectrum of sculptures. His work currently can be found on public display at Dickson's Holland Park, The Factory at Franklin, Franklin, Tenn. He was also profiled on "Tennessee Crossroads," a television show that highlights local artists, attractions, and events within the state, and he receives more interest in his sculptures at every art show he enters. Above all, Lankford remembers the roots to his new-found success.
"What really excites me is welding things together and taking unusual things and turning them around."
Associate Editor Amanda Carlson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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