Artique will present local leaf artist Ed Wittrock
Ryan Summerlin January 29, 2013
Back in the 1970s, Ed Wittrock was a mechanical engineer who liked to turn metal into works of art.
"I started making welded sculptures of windmills and that evolved things that are seen in oil fields," Wittrock said during an interview with The Park Record. "That, in turn, evolved into me making handmade leaves and branches made from copper and brass and steel.
One day, in 1975, Wittrock saw a natural leaf that was encapsulated in plastic.
"I thought that it was a great idea, but didn’t do anything like that until 2007," he said with laugh. "It took me 32 years to even try to do something like that."
Since then, Wittrock has created thousands of pendants made from natural leaves that have been coated with a plastic resin.
Some of those works will be part of the Wittrock’s First Friday Artist Opening event at Artique, 283 N. Main St. in Kamas, on Feb. 1.
Wittrock, who lives in Wild Willow, which is two miles south of Kamas, said he met Artique owner Katie Stellpflug a year ago at Samak Smokehouse, where he sells his pendants.
The two got acquainted just before Stellpflug opened up the Starving Artist Exchange, which is now Artique, with her friends Cassidy DuHadaway and Alisha Niswander.
"I didn’t put any of my pendants up there until last year around Christmas time and we had some remarkable sales," Wittrock said. "We were pleased that the popularity of the works have grown from there."
When DuHadaway and Niswander left the shop to pursue other interests, Stellpflug changed its name to Artique, and asked Wittrock if he wanted to be a featured artist.
"There will be more than 50 leaves on display," Wittrock said. "We’ll have a dozen earring sets that I made out of the flower petals, as well.
"I’ll also be exhibiting some of my metal sculptures that have been in my collection for a few years," he said. "I at least want to show them, but try to sell them also."
Creating the pendants takes some patience, Wittrock said.
"First off, they are coated in a plastic resin," he said. "It’s a two-part mixture and I put four coats of it on each side of the leaf."
Wittrock said he can apply the concoction with a brush, but usually ends up using whatever he used to stir the resin.
"You can also take a Popsicle stick and spread the stuff on the leaves like putting butter on toast," he said.
A single coat takes at least 24 hours to cure and dry.
"I don’t have the luxury of doing it all in one coat and they aren’t capsulated in a mold, so it’s a pretty meticulous business," he said.
Adding to the clock is the chore of picking and drying the leaves.
"My eye primarily is attracted to red leaves," Wittrock said. "When I lived in Colorado for 26 years, I used to look for red aspen leaves. While they were hard to find, I did find some, and eventually, learned that they are pretty common in Utah."
He also looks for orange and yellow leaves.
"I have found, however, that yellow leaves don’t hold up the color very well, although the plastic coating does preserve the color for the most part." Wittrock said.
"Yellow aspen leaves turn black over time, but I have a yellow leaf I coated in 2008 and it’s still yellow."
Aspens aren’t the only leaves Wittrock works with.
"I’ll coat anything from maple leaves to flower petals, which I’m really interested in now," he said. "Flower petals seem to be very popular, because of the new colors and textures I can find. They are wonderful, but harder to do than leaves, because they are so delicate."
Like with the leaves, Wittrock has to choose the right color, size and shape of the petals.
"That’s kind of difficult because there are so many of these beautiful things out there to choose from," he said.
Wittrock first started making the pendants after he retired and moved to Kamas to be closer to his daughter.
"I sat down one day and reflected about what I wanted to do," he said. "I said to myself, ‘Welding is kind of a pain, so why don’t I try putting plastic on leaves?’"
Since the popularity of the pendants has grown, Wittrock, who calls himself the "Leafer in Charge," has been busy making new ones.
"It’s to the point, now, where it’s starting to feel more like work," he said. "But besides the creativity, I love meeting the people who enjoy what I do. Of course, when I get some kind of positive input in my day, it makes everything better. So, anyone who buys one of these pendants is giving me some positive input."
Ed Wittrock will be the featured artist at the First Friday Opening at Artique, 283 N. Main St. in Kamas, on Friday, Feb. 1. Wittrock will show his work from 6 p.m. until 9 p.m. Admission is free. Artique is formerly known as the Starving Artist Exchange. For more information, visit www.facebook.com/TheStarvingArtistExchange.