“pro oculi dei solum”

photo 3aI was working on some window guards for client’s basement windows when a visitor came in the studio and started talking to me.

I was busily smoothing the back of the grate with a grinder when he asked me why I would spend time on the backside of something what would be in the basement anyway.

It just struck me as sad. Why would you not make the back look nice too?  Isn’t that part of doing your best?

I just kept working away…  he finally left the studio…

It reminded me of the workers who made the 12th century stained glass in the cathedral in York England.

The cathedral has the largest medieval stained glass in all of Europe. photo 1

While we were there, they were in the middle of a long restoration process.  Each piece of glass was being taken down, cleaned, releaded, and returned to its place.  The tour guide mentioned that the workers in the 12th century knew that they were working on something that, when in place, would be so far up in the air that it would never be seen by anyone.  And yet they still made the most beautiful art.

It was said they were working “pro oculi dei solum” which is Latin for “for God’s eyes only”.

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Now I don’t want to compare my grinding a piece of metal with a power tool to a medieval stained glass artist making glass from scratch in a wood fired kiln. But I too feel that there were times when doing it right has its own reward.


So I think I’ll keep working the way I am…

Just check the back of one of my pieces the next time you see it,

and let me know if I missed something.


What is that you do because it just needs to be done?

I’d love to hear about it.

use the form below,

or email me at steve@stephenzmetaldesigns.com

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Master Gardener’s Discovery Garden Sculpture

The Onslow County North Carolina, Master Gardeners are building a show garden as a learning center, plant display, and as a place of beauty for people in the area, and I get to be part of it!

The Discovery Garden will be a beautiful showplace for plants and trees which are native to the coastal area of North Carolina.  There will also be hard-scape such as southern plantation influenced buildings and water ponds, all demonstrating different aspects of permanent culture water conservation and beautiful plantings.

They sent out a request for proposals on designs to be used in the entryway of the garden. And my design was accepted.drawing

Once I started designing the sculpture, it was obvious I wanted to have a number of metal plants (because I am a metal artist) that were native to North Carolina and colored with metal dyes.  The dyes were to be used, as opposed to using paint, to achieve a watercolor effect with the plants and remove them from that harsh painted color feel.  the remainder of the area was to be maintained by the Master Gardeners who would add seasonal flowers through out the year.

So now the challenge was to make the plants in a way that would stand up to the environment and still look native and botanically (somewhat) correct.  So I was off, creating something new!

I started by drawing a number of different shapes and leaf designs on a computer to be cut with a laser.  Each of the leaves had to be slightly different to look more natural.



The leaves had to be textured so as to look like…wait for it….leaves.

I used my modified arbor press to make the job something I could do without having to heat and hot forge every leaf.  Cold forging it sometimes a lot tougher…but with a press it came off great.  I wrote about it in a previous blog, here.

leaf bend 1sleaf bend 2s

The tree trunk was a lot of fun.  Fun if you love beating on a piece of metal for 2 hours…  and I guess I do.  It all was planned out on paper but the transfer to 3D is always a challenge.  Sooner or later you have to just make something and check it out.

I think the trees turned out nice so I moved on to the fence.

The design called for the fence to start at about 40 inches high and go to 18 inches.  I went by a sheerfriends shop who has an ironworker.  This is a machine which can cut metal with the push of a button!   And boy did I love pushing that button. It cut all the pickets, angled the tops and punched the holes for the welds!   In other words, saved me about 2 days work. (Writer’s Note: Christmas is coming and an Ironworker would look great under the tree… or maybe next to the tree)


Yes it was hot that day!









Paulina Gwaltney Photography made a video of some of the process, and can be seen here.

The finish is metal dies and paint.  There are so many angles and nooks that I am not sure I would ever find all the surfaces that need to be covered.

The installation went well and there was a big dedication.  Lots of fun!

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The Master Gardeners are going to landscape the rest of the entry with seasonal flowers.  It should be a great first impression of the garden.  Those folks were great to work with on the project.

Go by and see it if you are in the Jacksonville area, it is located on Hwy 258/24.

Oh, one more thing,  they also are using a stylized version of my drawing as the logo for the gardens.

garden logo


I’d love to hear you comments,

Email me at steve@stephenzmetaldesigns.com


just use the form/ link below.


Juniper Rescue

As all of you know I am a metal artist.

Every day I deal with designing and making things from metal…mostly steel.  So what’s up with those stacks of wood drying in my studio?

I think there is just something beautiful about a solid piece of wood.

The wood I have drying in my metal studio is interesting because it was rejected by the sawmill, and therefore, destined for the chipper.

Yes, destined to be chipped up and sent to the bottom of some farmer’s chicken house.

Florida_chicken_houseWhat a horrible life! If I can turn that reject into something beautiful then that makes life better for everyone

…OK maybe not the chickens…

My latest rescue is a piece of juniper that was a problem for the sawmill.  It was not straight, and builders want straight!

That also means sawmill guys want straight.

I was looking for a tree that had a flair on the end of the trunk to use as a design element for a bench.  Mr. Earl (the sawmill guy) told me he had some juniper and it would probably meet my needs.  After a few minutes climbing on the wood pile I found the juniper logs.

The piece I wanted was almost uniform in diameter, but had a curve in it near the bottom.  The curve was a defect and Mr. Earl would not be interested in cutting it for boards.  So out it came.

wood 1

It took me a few minutes to get him to understand that I needed to prop up the thin end so the center of the log was level to the saw.  I wanted it to be cut through the center and then a slab cut on each side.  That would create two book matched pieces.  (as if they were two pages of a book, mirror images of each other)



The cutting went well and we discovered a large void inside the trunk which caused it to bend.  Not a problem for me.  It is actually an interesting feature that I hope to emphasize when the wood is used.

wood 2

What will it be?  I don’t know yet.

Green wood needs to dry for about 2 years before it can be used for furniture.  There is plenty of time to dream up the design.

So what are you finding that no one else thinks is of value?

I’d love to hear your thoughts and learn about your finds.

Email me at steve@stephenzmetaldesigns.com

or just use the form below.


In the mean time I’ll be on the look out for another log that needs rescuing.




Look Up… It’s Art!

In my quest to find art that others miss, I looked up and saw this on top of a brew house in Dublin.

server vain s 2

I think it is a great reminder that if we have to make it….

…..we should make is beautiful.


Keep your eyes open, and send me more of your finds.

And , I’d love to hear what you think of this one.


Email me at steve@stephenzmetaldesigns.com

Or use the form below:

Yes, They Were Chicken Wire Lions!

Last summer we were in the UK for a vacation.

We went to the Tower of London to see all the history.  While we were there, I noticed something on top one of the back walls.

Chicken Wire Lions!!!

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An artist, who’s name I unfortunately do not know, had crafted life size and realistic looking lions from chicken wire.lion s 1


Knowing the British people, they probably have a more interesting name for it than chicken wire, but that is what I call it.


They were placed without fanfare, and allowed to be discovered on your own.

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I think they were fabulous!


I’d love to hear what you think.


Email me at steve@stephenzmetaldesigns.com

Or use the form below:


I met a young artist the other day.  Keoki came to my studio because he had done some welding with his grandfather and was interested in seeing what I was doing and the equipment I had on hand.

Oh, did I say, he was 13?

We talked for a while and I showed him all my projects, in various levels of completion.

Then we talked about his art.

He has been working on abstract art made from cut paper.  He showed me several of his designs.

They were intricate art.  It obviously took a lot of concentration to reach the level of this work.

And all from a teenager!!  As they say in Brittan ….Good form old chap…


Then he told me he had made one for me!


What do you think?

It is going on the art wall in my office.


Young artist need to be encouraged.  So I am helping to make him known to a few more folks.

You can comment on the form below, and he will see them.


Thanks for reading.

The Idle Minds of Metalworkers

I seem to have an eye for the unnoticed.  I always seem to see things that others miss.   I am also always looking for the backstory.  You know, the reason something happened, or why things are the way they are.

Well I have an interesting one. I call it “The Idle Minds of Metalworkers”

Long ago everything was made by hand.  Metalworkers were out there making all kinds of things. Some of it would have been very boring, repetitive work.   But I think they were still interested in trying to create artistic pieces…

Enter the lowly boot scraper.

The metalworkers could have made it a simple steel bar…but NOOO!

I looked around and noticed something much more interesting had been made.

OBSERVE…  the lowly Boot Scraper:scraper set 2

You could be the only guy in the neighborhood

with the Sphinx on his porch?

These guys felt there was a need to save the space on the porch…so they put the boot scraper close to the wall and carved a “cave” for your toe to go into so the scraper worked.  Imagine the pre planning involved in thinking this through before the base stone was mortared in place.

This one was one is from the Cotswold area in England  (as you notice the stone is different from the rest).  The mud there must have been so bad they redesigned the scraper to have a raised section to get the rough stuff off .

Here are a collection of scrapers, mostly from Bath, and created around the early 1700.  All the scrapers I saw in Bath were cast iron, so they got a little more ornate.  The town has fine paved streets now…but if every door had one of these next to it… evidence that it may have been a little different back then.  We did see some repeats but most were unique to their specific house.

scraper set1

This is one of my favorites.

It is cast iron, and we found it in Bath also. boot 3

But it’s the little things…. the extra blade at the top… the overall ornate design… the one leg, which was set in the stone with molten lead. (very old school).

It just seemed to speak to me.

How about you?

Are you out there looking for the little pieces of art all around us?

Too many people walk by without noticing them.

Not me…. I am looking for them evey day!

Life is too short and there is too many fascinating things in the world not to slow down and take notice.

As always, I  love getting your comments. Or see the pieces of art you notice.

Send them to me at:


or just use the form below.


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