I have shared this photo from 1998 when Robert first started welding garden art:
He had been a professional welder and soon his designs became intricate, symmetrical, and, we thought, salable. Below (again), a double gate in Donna’s garden.
In ’98, The Planter Box garden center carried some of his work, but it failed to sell; the competition was fierce from cheap mail order abours from China.
In 1999, he made gates for a new fenced garden at Klipsan Beach Cottages.
Sharon commissioned a spiderweb tuteur for her garden on the bay. When her soon to be ex husband refused to let her take it in the divorce (and believe me, he did not want it, he just wanted to be mean!), because it had been attached to the porch railing by two screws (thus legally part of the house), she commissioned a second one for her new home in Portland!
He built two trellis panels to provide a Long Beach friend with some window privacy:
He had begun to assemble his work with creative fastenings:
I still have the arbour that he gave to my mother with a spiral fastener like that, and the arbour still neatly comes apart in three pieces for moving.
This cute little tuteur did sell at the Planter Box; I called it the Dalek tuteur.
By this time, I was doing as much of the gardening maintenance work as I could to give Robert more time to weld, although I did need his help when we would create a new garden area somewhere. (As you will see soon.) But care of the Long Beach parks and planters and suchlike I did as much as possible with the help of a friend.
In 2000, he sold a tuteur to the Shelburne Inn for their back garden (a place where by then I had been working as gardeners for a couple of years.)
He made the pergola for Lynn and Donna:
and fancy hardware with which to attach it.
Donna, his best customer, commissioned a tuteur for her front garden.
We met…somehow…a writer who lived in Ocean Park, and she commissioned a new style of tuteur that would cradle the rampant growth of her Paul’s Himalayan Musk rose:
Through 1999, Robert welded under our back porch by the stone wall of the house.
In 2000, I ran up a credit card bill to buy materials so that he could built his dream: a big welding shed in the middle of the garden. It seemed like surely, the business would take off.
It seemed to me that if he made a lot of one thing, like the spider web arbour, it would go faster, but he would always want to make fabulous new designs…from arbours to gates to tuteurs, and in late 2000 he came up with a new idea: hose hangers, something that he could make quickly, each with a different pattern to keep from getting bored. His best patron, Donna, bought one for each member of her large family that Christmas.
Klipsan Beach Cottages bought three hose hangers for the garden and one for each of the eight cabins. This was looking promising.
Might I add that these have held up and are still there over 12 years later.
In 2001, he made a hanger for the China Beach Retreat, after researching the Chinese symbol for water. As happened too often, he gave it away instead of selling it.
He branched out into bulrush and dragonfly sculptures:
by 2001, Klipsan Beach Cottages had three rebar gates on their fenced garden. The fastenings were even more intricate and clever.
One of the major downs in Robert’s ironworks career came when he installed this protective rail around the Lewis and Clark square garden in Long Beach.
He set a piece down and accidentally drove over it when moving our van, and (although really it was just a couple of hours work to fix it) had a stormy mood that involved spray painting over the part of our business sign that said “Ironworks”. He said, not for the first time, that he was going to quit and sell his tanks, but I stubbornly painted the word “Ironworks” back in. I saw more joy when he was creating than at any other time. Within a couple of days, he had cheered up and again was on a high that the business was about to take off.
I recall that once again, he gave them away rather than charging, or charged such a low price that he had only made a couple of dollars per hour of labour.
In the fall he made another water symbol hose hanger, which I think Donna bought.
Perhaps, he thought in 2002, welded garden furniture would be the way to go.
2002 was the last year of the ironworks. In the midst of the upheaval of 2003, he sold the tanks. I still think it is a tragedy that nothing but these pieces came from such a talent. I often thought that if we had had enough money so that he did not have to do any work BUT creative work, or if he could have charged enough to make at least a modest wage while welding…perhaps there could have been success. Sometimes people wanted to commission items but wanted to pay such a low price that he would have been averaging fifty cents an hour!
In 2005, it almost seemed like he would revive the ironworks, as he had a relationship with someone with money who was going to set him up with new tanks and a workshop, but it was not to be and he left the Peninsula.
I still wonder….Why was this not a great success? Everyone who saw the pieces loved them, some people wanted to buy them and yet….there are no more to be had. At least here I can preserve them. And in my garden I have two of the creations: