Standing in a garage cluttered with buckets of iron rods, piles of rotary blades, and a vast array of rusty scrap metal, Wayne Deaton picks up a large metal wrench and says, "This will be a grasshopper." Pointing to tight coils of wire, he says, "Those are Wiener dogs." He pulls a handheld scythe out of a bucket and says, "What is this?" Running his finger along the rusty blade he answers, "It's a beak. A toucan." Then, he turns to half of an old keg and begins sanding the edges. By the end of the day, it'll be a pond of reeds and cattails—home to a metal heron, frog, dragonflies and hummingbirds.
How many years have you been participating in RAF?
Since the beginning, 13 years?
How did you become interested in creating recycled art/what were your inspirations?
My father taught me how to weld when I was eight. And we always made little things for the family for Christmas. I did some fabricating welding and got away from the art then something just kind of triggered it again. I've been making art for the last 10 years or so. Just making stuff for people.
What types of material do you incorporate into your recycled art and where do you get it?
What people are throwing away—yard sales, estate sales, I go through their free pile and I bring it home. People know I do this sort of stuff; they drop it off in my trailer and I go through it. Sometimes it's garbage, sometimes it's stuff I can use. I'm using more and more different types of material in my art now which is fun. Mostly metal, and some wood and rock. I make frogs, birds, turtles, and all sorts of things with just anything I can find. My dad has gotten into it in the last 12 years with me and RAF. So he's using a lot of different stuff, rocks, and all sorts of material. I made a frog with a rock and he said, "I like that." So then, he made his own.
What are the biggest challenges with your recycled art or as an artist?
Well, I pick up a nail and I sit there and look at it. And I say, "Oh, that's going to be a kite-flyer guy, or a gold-panner, or a fisherman, or something." And everybody looks at me and says, "How do you see that?"
Well, you got to open your mind. A lot of things, challenges that people have, is that they don't open their mind and see what's out there. I see a bent piece of steel and I think of some sort of artwork coming out of it.
And there's times when I can't get it to do what I want it to do because I'm kind of restricted because I don't have a big shop. I have a few things but a lot of it is up at my dad's shop. And sometimes I'll bounce things off my dad and he'll bounce things off of me, and then we come up with another idea of how to do it.
What do you wish you knew about your art before you started?
Pricing some things. I can do something simple like make a little fisherman, may take me two hours, but do I put a $100 on it, or $25 on it? My time is worth something but then I sit there and look at pieces and I don't want to sell them. Before my wife died, she'd say, "Oh, that one's mine. You'll have to go make another one." I'd have to hide a lot of things before RAF because if she had her way, our whole yard would be full of stuff.
What are some of your favorite pieces?
Some of the things that I've done with the stainless that I keep in my house. My elk coat rack.
I do have one fisherman that's one of my favorites. I almost sold it and then I said, "No, I can't sell it." And I brought it home, because it's one of the pieces I started when my wife started chemo and we were told that she didn't have long. And she just loved that fisherman, so that one I'll never sell.
In a festival like RAF full of other artists, what makes you feel your work is unique and truly your own?
There's a lot of people that do the same sort of stuff, but everyone is different. Everyone has their own technique, their own way of doing things. We have the same spot every year, and we have the same clientele come in every year buying. "Oh, you gotta make this one piece." A hummingbird, a dragonfly, the horseshoe flowers, or the shovel birds. They want a different piece every year. And that's one of the advantages of having that same spot every year, they know where we're at. They come up and call us by name. It's really neat. And I have some clients that contact me and say, "We couldn't catch you at RAF. Can I get this certain piece for Christmas?" And I'll set out for them some of the things I like.
What do you want the Public to take away from your art?
That there's not really garbage out there; it can be used. One man's trash is another man's treasure. Think about what other people might be able to use it for or donate it so people can make something for whoever. Nothing's garbage. When it gets down to pieces that can't be used, I take it to recycling.
Can you tell us about the piece you are working on right now?
Right now, I have a water feature I'm making for a client that's half a beer keg that somebody was throwing away. I took it home and cut it in half and I'll put a quarter-round stock around the edge to keep it from being sharp, and cut some reeds and make up some cattails and put a heron in it, put a frog on the lily pad, and she wants dragonflies and hummingbirds with it so I'll throw some of those in and add a pump to circulate the water. And that will be a Christmas gift for her family. A lot of what my dad and I do is customized work. We build gates and trailers with our scrap metal. Some of it is stuff we find on the side of the highway. I'll pull over and throw it in my Jeep and bring it home. It's a lot of fun.
I'm hoping to have another water feature. It'll be a wine barrel. I'll take pipe and bend it around like grape vines. I've been collecting copper tubing so that I can make all of the leaves out of copper this time. Ball bearings I use for grape clusters. So I'm hoping to have one of those made for RAF this year.
The first one I did was a hit. Everybody loved it. And finally someone came around and bought it.
And Christmas is coming so I'll be making gifts for my family. My sister wanted one of my mobiles with the hummingbirds. Last summer, I had ten mobiles that I made with copper cut-out hummingbirds and made up flowers and brazed those into it and made all of these mobiles. I sold all of them at RAF. My sister said, "That's what I want for Christmas." So I'll get those made for my sister and two of my nieces and my nephews and their girlfriends. Everyone gets something made. Except for my dad, I never know what to buy or make for him because he can make the same thing.