The Williams resident owns Twisted Horn Forge and is a co-owner of The Gallery in Williams. He turns sheets of metal into ravens and petroglyphs and discarded air tanks into bells and drums through the magic of blacksmithing, welding and a computer-assisted cutting machine.
He even turned a gas tank into a planet. The Mars Kaleidisphere on display at Lowell Observatory was a collaboration between Williams, John Rogers and Mike Frankel. Williams worked on the shell of the Kaleidisphere, which was originally a gas tank.
Williams’ collaborators weren’t sure the tank would work for the project, especially since Williams almost lost an eyebrow cutting it open. He had filled the tank with water in order to push out the remaining gas vapors, but didn’t quite get all of them.
“There was still some left in the tank,” he said. The cutting torch ignited the vapor with a whoosh of flame. Williams was able to rid the tank of the rest of the vapor by refilling it with water and letting it sit.
Williams studied the features of the red planet closely in order to recreate them on the outside of the sphere. He then hammered in the features by hand. Rogers and Frankel worked on the kaleidoscope part of the sphere, pulling photos from the Hubble telescope and combining it with their skills in glass and machinery.
Williams’ latest works center on ravens. It started with a customer requesting one of his bells with a raven added to it. The bell was easy enough -- Williams makes hundreds of them out of old air cylinders -- but the bird was another story.
Williams studied ravens from every angle by downloading photos from birding and naturalist websites. The body of the bird is cut, formed and welded from sheet metal. Then Williams designed a pattern for each feather and used a CNC machine - computer numerical control -- to cut out more than 2,000 feathers in various shapes and sizes. Each feather was then individually attached to the life-sized bird.
His current raven projects include a raven coiling a basket made out of rebar and a sculpture of a raven and the sun.
Williams got into metalworking while he was living in California.
“I was a mountain bike patroller for the national and state park system,” he said.
He loved mountain biking, and like most enthusiasts was looking for a way to create his own custom accessories. He joined up with a friend, who is a steel fabricator for the movie industry, to open a mobile bike repair shop.
He was so amazed at the variety of items his friend could make with a bit of metal and a few welds that Williams decided to take a welding class and become a certified welder.
About six months ago, he moved to Arizona and took up residence in Flagstaff, but job prospects for welders were slim with low pay; instead, he became a bus mechanic for Flagstaff Unified School District.
While working at the school district, he stopped by a recycled art show.
“I was looking at some of the items and thought ‘I could do that,’” he said.
He started saving and asking others at the shop to save bits of scrap metal for him. He saved used horseshoes and welded them together to create wine racks, cactuses and other items.
“But that’s just sticking things together,” he said. Williams wanted to do more, so he started taking blacksmithing classes at Pieh Tool in Camp Verde.
This allowed him to expand his skills and creativity into making items like his raven sculptures, drums, and flowers for his Shoeguaro cactus sculptures made from mule shoes from the Grand Canyon. Nearly everything he uses to create his artworks are recycled or upcycled from other materials.
Williams is a graduate of the Coconino Center for the Arts’ ArtBox Institute. The program helps artists of all kinds learn how to set up a business plan, calculate sales tax, market themselves and their artwork, and show their work.
Williams said the program was a big help in creating his websites, setting up and operating the gallery, and marketing his art.
He entered his first art show, the Recycled Art Exhibition in Flagstaff, in 2011 and won the Elegance award. The next year he entered again and won Best in Show for one of his Shoeguaro pieces. Last year, he won Best in Show at the Coconino Center for the Arts It’s Elemental Art Show for a piece called “Resonance.”
The piece features a bell hanging from a tree branch with panels of petroglyphs on both sides and a bowl of water filled with stones below it. On his website, Williams describes how the hum of the bell is like ripples in a pond. He compares the ripples to life, where most of us start our lives in one spot then move outward as we grow.
In 2011, Williams and his wife, Kris, together with a number of other artists, opened a co-op gallery in downtown Williams on Route 66. The artists featured in the gallery take turns operating it.
A number of people told Williams the gallery wouldn’t make it and he conceded it looked a little strange among all of the more touristy-type shops. But they stuck together through the first year, and then in March of the following year, two more galleries opened and more of the touristy-type shops started carrying more art.
The reporter can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (928)556-2253.