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Art: Vane Glories

Sheila Gibson Stoodley

Appearing suitably alarmed and clad curiously in a fur bikini, Raquel Welch is trapped in the talons of the pterodactyl that leans against a wall in Anthony Holand’s Martha’s Vineyard, Mass., workshop. The 15-inch-tall pale green plastic model depicting a scene from the 1966 film One Million Years B.C. will be Holand’s muse while he renders this image as a weather vane. “It’s for someone on the island who has a great personality,” Holand explains with a grin.
 
The 29-year-old metal sculptor has reason to smile; business is brisk. Demand for Holand’s custom weather vanes, which start at $12,000, is strong enough to create an 18-month-long wait. On this midspring afternoon, weather vanes of varying levels of tradition and completion crowd his workshop: A stallion in mid-gallop awaits a coat of 23-karat gold leaf, and a Notre Dame Fighting Irish leprechaun needs a hat for its bald, copper pate. Design sketches for a weather vane in the form of an antique fire truck cover a table, and the workshop’s photo album contains pictures of Holand’s largest piece to date, a 10-foot-long, one-ton, copperplate Nittany lion that Penn State installed at its Beaver Stadium in 2001. Joel Myers, founder of the Accuweather forecasting system, donated the lion to his alma mater. Holand affixed more than 100 pieces of copper over the lion’s stainless steel frame, joining the pieces with an oxyacetylene torch that renders metal as pliable as clay. He finished the lion in a final punishing push during which he slept four hours over four days. “I passed out cold under it, in midsentence, on the boat [that was ferrying it out],” he says, laughing.

Raised in Washington state, Holand attended North Idaho College and studied painting, drawing, and bronze-casting before transferring to Columbia Basin College in Pasco, Wash. There, he majored in business at his mother’s urgings to prepare, as he says, for a real job. The job that has become his career initially was only an excuse to extend a summer stay on Martha’s Vineyard. Eight years ago, Travis Tuck, a metal sculptor who began specializing in weather vanes after making a shark weather vane for the film Jaws, needed an apprentice. Holand, who was 21 at the time, responded to Tuck’s help-wanted notice and was hired. “Mom would always say to me, ‘How often do you see an ad for a metal sculptor in the paper?’ Now it’s become a big joke between us,” he says.

Tuck was so pleased with Holand’s artistry that he elevated him to partner with the notion of having him take over the workshop eventually, but the transition occurred earlier than intended when Tuck died from cancer in October 2002. “It was hard after he died, having to find answers to questions on my own,” says Holand, who was 26 at the time. “I did it, but I lost a mentor.”

The workshop has thrived under Holand’s stewardship, but as busy as he is, he would welcome another project on the scale of the Nittany lion, most of which he constructed because of Tuck’s illness. “I want to do another big one,” he says. “[New England Patriots owner] Bob Kraft needs a Pats logo weather vane for that brand-new stadium.” Needless to say, unlike the Penn State lion or the inspiration for this current project, the patriot would not be covered completely or clothed sparingly in fur.

Tuck & Holand Metal Sculptors, 508.693.3914, www.tuckandholand.com

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