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Heavily into metal: How art infuses his business

By Corene Brisendine

Bill Sharp has been working hard for the past year building a new business out of two things he loves, metal and art. 

Sharp’s welding and art business, called Sharp Creations, allows him to repair everyday items such as lawn mowers, ATVs and also build metal objects for the home. Those could include gates, trellises, fire rings, plant hangers, and wine racks.

All are made from metal.

“It’s rewarding to still be this damn poor because I can be poor in my own house instead of an apartment,” he said.

Sharp said a lot of what he does is repair work, but he doesn’t let the time that pulls him away from his passion for art spoil his day.

“There’s no sense in getting upset when I don’t get to do my art,” he said. “You have to get through the mundane stuff to get to do the fun stuff.”

Until last fall, Sharp was struggling with raising a child on his own and working two jobs to make ends meet while living in income-based housing. He said he tried everything to save a little money that would allow him to follow his passion in creating metal art. Then, he decided to take a chance. He gave up one of his jobs, moved out of income-based housing, and bought a shop in Riley. While building a home inside his shop, he also started taking repair jobs. Although he still works one full-time job at Ray’s Apple Market in Manhattan, he still puts in as many hours as he did working two jobs. The difference is that now his second job is doing “mundane” repairs and creating art in his shop.

“A lot of what I do is home décor stuff, and it’s got a rustic appeal to it,” he said. “It is horse shoes, nail, and simple stuff like that that I’ve made into something that people don’t expect.”

For example, he creates “nail bugs” out of copper sheeting and horseshoe nails. The bugs resemble dragonflies mounted on a long iron rod to put in a flowerpot or garden. The wings are copper and the body is a pair of nails welded together.

“I don’t concentrate on making them all look alike,” Sharp said. “I just concentrate on them all looking like little bugs.”

He said each bug is different because of how he puts the two nails together or how the copper heats and attaches, but all resemble dragonflies in flight.

Another popular creation is his metal roses. Like the dragonflies, each looks just a little different, but all are long-stem roses. He sometimes he puts a rose in his lapel. When someone asks where he got it, he tells them he made it and has more in the trunk of his car.

He said he makes the items by the dozen to take to various craft shows and the Farmer’s Market. He sells about 85 percent of his art “on the spot.” The other 15 percent are sold to people calling him up after a show or through work on more specialized projects.

Sharp sometimes incorporates his art into usually mundane jobs. One of those jobs is to build a trellis for Blueville Nursery.

“It’s something that has to be built,” he said. “But it’s not just a grid-iron wall.”

Sharp took the four panels that were to make up the trellis and is adding a little creativity. He created some panels that are horizontal and vertical and others that are diagonal. When completed, it will look more appealing that a “mundane” metal lattice.

He said as a result of “going one step beyond” in his work, he has generated repeat customers and grown his business through word of mouth.

Sometimes that one step can be filing down all the sharp edges or knocking off the burrs to make it look more professional. Sometimes, he decides to paint the project.

“It might not be the color they wanted,” he said. “I might just paint it primer grey, or black.”

But that’s not the point, he said, it’s about doing one more thing to the project that the customer didn’t ask for to make it that much better.

Another project he is working on is a gate. In addition to making it functional, he is also making it look like it is covered in vines and tree bark. He has rolled the metal in such a way that the posts look like tree bark, and the lattice in the middle of the gate looks like vines growing on it. By building a gate he is satisfying the customer’s desire to have a functioning gate. By making the gate look like a vineyard, it satisfies his desire to create art.

That kind of thinking and doing has allowed him to be creative, and has brought customers back for more.

He said that by creating something functional as well as artistic, he gives people something more than they expected. That unexpected art is what has grown his business, and he hopes it will continue.

“That’s the gap I’m trying to fill,” he said. “It’s structural, but it’s different at the same time.”

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