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I have shared this photo from 1998 when Robert first started welding garden art:

Robert's rebar arbours, lower garden

Robert’s rebar arbours, lower garden

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 the west side of Donna's garden

in the west side of 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.

arbour at the Planter Box

arbour at the Planter Box

arbour side view

arbour side view

his one and only spider sculpture.  Donna bought it.

his one and only spider sculpture. Donna bought it.

In 1999, he made gates for a new fenced garden at Klipsan Beach Cottages.

KBC gate and, in the background, tuteur

KBC gate and, in the background, tuteur

KBC gate detail

KBC gate detail

a real dragonfly on top of the KBC tuteur

a real dragonfly on top of the KBC tuteur

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!

Sharon's first arbour being installed.

Sharon’s first arbour being installed.

He built two trellis panels to provide a Long Beach friend with some window privacy:

trellis panel

trellis panel

trellis detail with dragonfly

trellis detail with dragonfly

He had begun to assemble his work with creative fastenings:

spiral fastener

spiral fastener

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.

Dalek tuteur

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.)

Shelburne tuteur from a hotel balcony

Shelburne tuteur from a hotel balcony

Shelburne tuteur

Shelburne tuteur with glass fishing float topper

He made the pergola for Lynn and Donna:

the pergola

the pergola

and fancy hardware with which to attach it.

fastener

fastener

Donna, his best customer, commissioned a tuteur for her front garden.

Robert with Donna's tuteur

Robert with Donna’s tuteur

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:

at Seagarden

at Seagarden

Through 1999, Robert welded under our back porch by the stone wall of the house.

welding under the deck

welding under the deck

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.

building the shed

building the shed

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.

hose hangers, all different

hose hangers, all different

Klipsan Beach Cottages bought three hose hangers for the garden and one for each of the eight cabins.  This was looking promising.

Robert with a hosehanger at KBC.

Robert with a hosehanger at KBC.

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.

"water" hose hanger

“water” hose hanger

He branched out into bulrush and dragonfly sculptures:

dragonfly

dragonfly

by 2001, Klipsan Beach Cottages had three rebar gates on their fenced garden.  The fastenings were even more intricate and clever.

 

attachment

attachment

fish gate

fish gate at KBC

the third gate at KBC

the third gate at KBC

a simple plant holder

a simple plant holder

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.

planter rail

planter rail

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.

He made two hose hangers for the Shelburne Inn and the Shoalwater Restaurant, which coexisted in the same building at that time.  (The Shoalwater’s hose was warm water.)  Making smaller things was better for his health, which was precarious.   It seemed he might be getting Post Polio Syndrome, and he had a small heart attack in 2002 and was not supposed to be hefting heavy things.
S for Shelburne and Shoalwater

S for Shelburne and Shoalwater

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.

water symbol

water symbol

the last gates he made for Donna

the last gates he made for Donna

 

Perhaps, he thought in 2002, welded garden furniture would be the way to go.

dragonfly table

dragonfly table

another table which a friend in Long Beach bought

another table which a friend in Long Beach bought

a table and chair.  The chair was very comfortable.

a table and chair. The chair was very comfortable.

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.

sculpture

sculpture

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:

arbour

spiderweb arbour

and a tuteur

and a tuteur

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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