Francis resident Ed Wittrock returns to his artistic roots
Three years ago, Francis resident Ed Wittrock was busy with resin leaf jewelry. He began creating these intricate works after years spent working with a different medium.
However, when Artique in Kamas hosts its First Friday artist opening on March 4, Wittrock’s show will mark his return to his artistic roots: metal sculpting.
"I had cut back from the leaves and went back to my welding because I discovered when I was doing jewelry, it felt like it became more like a manufacturing job," Wittrock said during an interview. "That’s not a bad thing, but I found it wasn’t really what I wanted to do."
Wittrock got into metal sculpting back in 1969, during his career as a mechanical engineer.
"For some reason, I got interested in art. I didn’t do any painting or drawing at the time, but I developed a passion for art and got interested in metal sculpture," he said. "I already knew how to do oxy acetylene welding and it was a natural thing for me to start."
Falling in love with art took Wittrock by surprise.
"It’s funny because I didn’t think I had an artistic bone in my body — at least I didn’t think so," he said. "But once I got started, the creativity hooked me."
One reason was because he didn’t have to answer to a boss.
"I think I enjoyed it because the freedom of not having to follow someone else’s rules and regulations is nice," he said.
When Wittrock retired from engineering in 2003, he moved to his home in Francis, where he could focus on making his art.
"That’s when I also started working with smaller items and leaf jewelry," he said.
A few years later, Wittrock met Katie Stellpflug, owner of Artique, a locally based art boutique.
"She somehow convinced me to show my work and I’ve been working with her ever since," he said. "Artique, I think, is the only place in Kamas where people can come in and appreciate handmade art — drawings, paintings and whatnot. It’s the truest form of art."
Wittrock’s decision to go back to metal sculpting was a gradual process, one he’d been thinking about for some time.
"I started backing into it casually by making smaller items and now I’m doing bigger works," he said.
He also enjoys his subject matter more.
"Even though welding can be a more rigid art form, I seem to have a lot of empathy for wildlife and other types of animals," he said. "I have found satisfaction in making metal sculptures of these creatures."
Wittrock welcomes the mental creative process when he creates these sculptures.
"I get into the feeling of what the creature may be feeling," he said. "For example, I created a Rocky Mountain bighorn head out of metal and it was meant to represent old age in an odd kind of way. And I created an eagle that had just caught a fish and needed to hide it in his wings so the other eagles wouldn’t try to steal it."
Wittrock uses an array of new and used metal rods to create these works.
"You form a shape by using the torch in one hand and form a welding rod that can be old steel or new steel into a shape by using your other hand," he said.
Then he mounts these creations on new or cleaned-up used horseshoes and finished wooden slabs.
"You put dabs of molten steel down and fasten the sculpture to them," he said. "The ram’s head was mounted on a piece of cypress that I had acquired back in 1980. It just laid around until about two weeks ago. When I was looking for wood for this ram, it seemed to fit nicely."
In addition to the six metal sculptures, Wittrock will show some leaf drawings and lamps made out of recycled wine bottles.
"While I have given up on jewelry, I haven’t given up totally on leaves, and I will show six framed prints of my drawings as well," he said.
Wittrock knows the importance of fine art.
"Look what it’s done for me," he said with a laugh. "If [we] don’t have art in our community, I feel you’re missing out. It does a heart good to see something that is hand made.
"As an engineering student, I observed the art students from a distance and couldn’t quite understand what I was seeing, because I thought math and physics were the only things in the world," he said. "Once I got into the art, it just kept coming out like pouring water out of a bucket. It’s like I’m inventing something, and that’s a real thrill."
Artique, 283 N. Main St., in Kamas, will present metal sculptor Ed Wittrock for its First Friday Artist Opening on Friday, March 4, at 6 p.m. The event is free and open to the public. For more information, call 435-640-8048.
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