Subscribe

If he had a hammer: The art of metal sculptor Jerry Meyers

A broken pair of pliers, a blunt scissors and a few wayward bolts become a bold vision in the artistic mind of Jerry Meyers as he welds waste into a wondrous sculpture of a bird. A blade becomes a beak and a fork forms into feathers as Meyers works his magic – he’s a master at making art out of tossed out metal.

Visitors to his home and art studio on a country road on outskirts of the Valley of the Moon are instructed to turn left when they see the giant bird, one of Meyers’ sculptures made of a battered wheelbarrow, a steel coil and assorted other metal scrap. Heading down the driveway of the 2-plus acre property a breaching whale sculpture and an 8-foot-metal man with a Kawasaki motorcycle body welcome visitors as they approach the front porch.

Such permanent outside installations are a hint to what Meyers makes. A life size, guitar-playing Elvis – composed mostly of bicycle chains and metal washers – rocks out in the barn, while much smaller welded metal musicians made of wrenches, drill bits, screws and nails are sized to sit nicely on a coffee table or bookshelf.

“This is a rescue,” Meyers, 74, teases, describing his art as way of preserving metal that would otherwise end up in the junkyard. A journeyman welder who retired in 2009 from a long career with PG&E, he rises before dawn every morning and starts creating. These days he’s busy making hummingbird feeders from very old brass chandeliers and parts from outside light fixtures. It is art that has a purpose and that makes it marketable.

“I used to make large sculptures, but people are living on a smaller scale now. Young people like the smaller pieces. Art changes and I am trying to change with it,” said Meyers.

Meyers first became fascinated with things made from metal when he was in high school and was drawn to welding. He began making metal art in the 1960s, just for the love it. In 1995 his daughters talked him into entering his work in art shows. He won best of show at the county fair and two-second place medals at the state fair and his professional career as an artist was born.

He was represented at several Bay Area galleries for many years and made the rounds at art fairs, but it got to be a grind. “This is supposed to be fun,” he said. Now he is content to show once a year at the Vintage Festival and sell what he can privately. His love of masterminding how to engineer assorted metal pieces into the previously unimaginable never wanes.

“I am always thinking, ‘What I can make out of that?’” he said about his extensive collection of scrap metal, old tools, battered pots and pans, golf clubs, utensils, pitchforks, pay phones – anything made of metal can probably be found in the piles of potential art stacked on his property that he and his wife Lillian purchased in 1979.

“I miss the dump terribly,” he said, as the refuse center on Old Abode Road no longer allows the public to poke around. Meyers used to head out there most every morning in search of treasure, and he still has enough metal finds left to last a lifetime.

He’s made pelicans from beer kegs, shovels and wrought iron rods. There is a scorpion with a meat hook for a stinger and a downhill skier made entirely of pipe wrenches. And a hammerhead shark made in part from, you guessed it, hammer heads.

Meyers etches his name and date of creation on all his pieces, and incorporates existing markings such as “Made in the U.S.A.” or the original date on an old tool into his art. He never melts or alters an old tool that’s still in working order. He collects those. There’s a nutcracker made in Texas in 1914, very rare cow shoes from the 1800s and a strange metal contraption that he explains is a clothesline tightener – Who knew?

“My favorite thing is watching people look at my art and figuring out what the pieces are,” he said. He especially enjoys when children at art fairs recognize that a bird tail is a spaghetti scoop and the eyes of the dodo bird are made of scissor handles.

UPDATED: Please read and follow our commenting policy:

  • This is a family newspaper, please use a kind and respectful tone.
  • No profanity, hate speech or personal attacks. No off-topic remarks.
  • No disinformation about current events.
  • We will remove any comments — or commenters — that do not follow this commenting policy.
Send a letter to the editor

Our Network

The Press Democrat
Sonoma Index-Tribune
Petaluma Argus Courier
North Bay Business Journal
Sonoma Magazine
Bite Club Eats
La Prensa Sonoma
Sonoma County Gazette