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Sequim's Man of Steel
Inspiration is everywhere, even on the back of an RV.
For Larry McCaffrey, 71, inspiration for welded metal sculptures grew from seeing intricate lines and shapes he spotted on a motorhome while driving in Sequim.
“I figured I could make that and somehow it evolved from that,” McCaffrey said.
He’s been shaping and welding metal art for six years in town, beginning with 2-D wall hangings and progressing to ribbon art and small and large steel pieces.
After building hundreds of pieces, McCaffrey admits he never imagined his passion for metal art would reach the level it’s at today.
McCaffrey retired from the industrial metal trade out of Eugene, Ore., and later sailed the West Coast for 13 years with his wife, Darlene. They settled in Sequim after looking for a spot at John Wayne Marina. McCaffrey said it was a long shot trying to find a spot for their boat at the last minute but if they hadn’t secured it then, they probably wouldn’t be here today.
After building a home in Sequim, McCaffrey spent two years creating utilitarian items, such as trailers and ladder racks, to sell before branching out into the art field.
His work is sold at the Blue Whole Gallery in Sequim and galleries in Port Townsend, Bainbridge Island and La Conner. His sculptures can be found as far east as Boston and as far south as Australia.
Despite his level of professionalism, McCaffrey said his art feels more like a hobby than a job.
“If I make enough to pay for materials, then the rest is gravy,” he said.
Due to limited space in galleries and the amount of time invested, he makes about 12 pieces a year, with most of his time centered on larger pieces.
McCaffrey said when he did a show on Bainbridge Island, they asked for 15 pieces of art, which led him to work much more than he’s accustomed, but he never feels pressured to get his work done and works through inspiration.
Forming the process
Each piece begins as a pencil drawing.
When he’s struck with an idea, McCaffrey will draw it to scale and soon thereafter make a scale model out of poster board.
The only pieces he doesn’t make models for are his ribbon art pieces. These are 8-foot sheets of metal that he’ll fold and weave into intricate patterns for display. Ribbons are less expensive to buy than the price of his larger sculptures and take less time, but McCaffrey adds elements to them such as intricate bases to create even more allure.
With his larger pieces, he’ll trace the scale patterns on the metal and cut out the pieces with a plasma cutter. From this, he’ll form the pieces through a roller before loosely putting it all together.
If there is a slight error, he’ll make needed adjustments and tack the pieces together.
Once the pieces are tacked together, McCaffrey welds the lines.
He said finishing takes as much time as anything else during the process because of the high level of detail and patience needed. With round edges, he said the bigger they are, the easier it is to weld at the slight angles.
Next, he’ll take the mild (lower-carbon) or stainless steel to a local business to powder coat the sculpture. This is a more expensive finishing process, he said, but it makes the metal more durable and gives it a nice finish.
All of his pieces are weatherproof for outside use in a garden or on a porch.
The hardest part of it all, McCaffrey said, is naming and pricing each piece because abstract art is harder to name and it’s hard to estimate the number of hours he spends on each piece.
For now, McCaffrey said he plans to focus on bigger pieces because they stand out.
He’s considering building his first public art display, but he’s unsure if he’ll proceed because it feels more like a job than what he’s used to doing.
“It’s working on someone else’s ideas and time frame,” he said. “That’s the beauty of this. It never feels like a job.”
For more information on McCaffrey, visit www.larrymccaffrey.com.