Prineville resident Terry Lawrenz has welded a variety of artistic creations

by: RON HALVORSON - Prineville resident Terry Lawrenz displays one of his metallic creations.

Some might say there are two kinds of welders — those who weld for a living, and those who weld as a lifestyle.

Terry Lawrenz is definitely one of the latter.

Just look at his yard.

Along with a bevy of custom, hand-crafted wind chimes, there is a menagerie of colorful metal birds, fanciful animals, flowers, and other creations that defy description.

Lawrenz has been busy, indeed.

“If I go a week without welding, I go stir crazy,” he admitted. “I’m good at it. Very good at it. That’s why I guess I like it so much.”

Lawrenz, 52, said he first took up welding three decades ago, when he attended the prestigious Hobart Institute of Welding Technology, in Troy, Ohio. When a 12-year stint as an aerospace welder in Colorado ended about three years ago, he followed his wife, Kristie, to her new job as manager of the City Center Motel.

He soon landed a job as a welder at a local mill but was laid off three months ago.

“This is the longest I’ve ever been without work,” he said.

His unemployment, though, has allowed him to concentrate on his metal art — a passion that began 15 years ago when there was daily, regular down time at his aerospace job.

“My boss came in there one day, and said, ‘Why don’t you make some art on your off time?’ So I started doing that, making stuff, and giving it to the secretaries, and to the bosses.”

“He started out making roses.” Kristie said.

“It just went from there,” he added.

Today, just about any old piece of metal is fair game to become, well, just about anything. Gears, springs, silverware, tools, saw blades, railroad spikes, pitchforks, bicycle parts, balance wheels, chain, hooks, springs, and moulding knives — not to mention horseshoes — all are fodder for innumerable creations.

His materials, he said, come from all over. Friends give him old metal, he finds parts at the Habitat ReStore, and he spends a lot of time on Craigslist. He’s even traded wind chimes for horseshoes.

It’s even better if the metal is rusty.

“I like the older stuff. I’ve discovered, since I’ve been here, that the old, rusty stuff sells a lot better than the newer.”

Actually getting money for his art is something new to Lawrenz.

“I’ve never sold it till I got here,” he said. “In fact, most of the stuff I’ve sold, she’s (Kristie) priced, because I got to where I was giving it to people. I just like doing it. I was thinking, if I start selling this, it’s going to feel like a job, and I’m not going to really get into it. But it hasn’t been like that.”

Sales have mostly been word-of-mouth, he said.

Sometimes he starts and finishes a sculpture with a definite goal in mind.

“He sees something, and it’s, ‘Hey. Doesn’t this look a — you know,’” said Kristie. “Then he starts building on that.”

At other times, not so much.

“This was going to be a plant stand,” he said, standing next to a dinosaur-like sculpture that’s still a work in progress. “I got it together, I didn’t like it, and what was I thinking? It was in the evening, and I went outside, after supper, and I just started tacking stuff on here. Then I really got into it.”

The same thing happened when he was working on an item for a recent benefit auction.

“I was trying to get a bunch of stuff done for that auction, and I welded something together out there, and it didn’t turn out how I wanted it, and I started welding stuff to it. Beth, the owner (of City Center Motel), saw it, and ‘Oh wow! I’ll take that.’ So we put it in her yard.”

For the time being, Lawrenz does his work just outside his back door, but since he and Kristie actually live in an apartment at the motel, there are some restrictions.

“I’ve got a curfew,” he said. “I can’t grind after a certain time.”

He said he still gives stuff away, but if he’s not careful, there can be conflict with his wife, especially if the gift involves her closely-guarded metal dragonfly, made of butter knives.

“What would get me,” she said, “is he’d make me something, and then a couple of days later I’d look, and it’s gone. He's either given it to somebody, or sold it.”

“I figure, well, I’ll make you another one,” he said, trying to smooth things over.

He’d like to be able to make a living doing this, but Lawrenz acknowledged that he needs to get back to a regular job soon. In the meantime, he said he welcomes ideas from people for special projects, such as a custom banana rack he made for Pickle’s Produce.

“At first I thought, ‘Well, he’s (owner of Pickle’s) just joking around. I never heard of a banana rack.’”

“I’m proud of him,” boasted Kristie. “Sometimes he says, ‘I don’t think anybody wants this stuff.’ But he does good, and I’m proud of him.”

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