Sequim newcomer Larry McCaffrey always wanted to have his own sculpture studio, but living on a 42-foot sailboat for more than a decade wasn't conducive to creating the steel artworks he envisioned.

After 13 years of sailing the West Coast from Alaska to Mexico, McCaffrey, who had been an industrial sheet-metal worker, and his wife, Darlene, moved to the Olympic Peninsula in 2003. Now he is living his dream - he's opened a studio where he creates abstract steel sculptures.

According to McCaffrey, art had been a longtime interest but it took a backseat to a stint in the Navy, his career and supporting his family.

"I've been wanting to do this for a long time, but it takes room and special equipment," McCaffrey said. "I couldn't really do it on the boat."

He said the sculpting is the easy part - it's the deciding that is the challenge. Since he does abstract artwork, McCaffrey said he spends a lot of time thinking about shapes and lines.

"The hardest part of the whole thing is coming up with an idea," McCaffrey said, adding that he usually gets his inspirations when he wakes at 5:30 in the morning. "I spend a lot of time coming up with different ideas."

His finished products can be several feet in height and length, so McCaffrey said he first sketches his ideas on paper to see if they will work. He then creates a full-size mock-up of cardboard.

"If that works out," McCaffrey said. "I get the steel."

He goes to a Tacoma-based steel supplier for his material, which he welds and polishes to get the desired look; he said an average piece takes about four days. McCaffrey generally works with stainless steel, mostly because he enjoys the look of it, he said, unpainted and untarnished. When he wants a change, he works with mild steel, a low-carbon version that needs to be painted before being displayed outdoors.

"I never paint stainless steel though," McCaffrey said. "I think it is prettier without paint on it; it's prettier by itself."

Encouraged by eager buyers of his work, McCaffrey recently took his first art class, which inspired him to begin working with other mediums such as cloth, paint, paper and collages.

McCaffrey's first interest remains steel, however, and after 35 years of working on major industrial projects around the country, he said using it for art lets him make his own decisions.

"I'm doing what I want to do with the steel," he said, smiling. "Not what someone else wants me to do with it."


Who: Larry McCaffrey,

artist of the month

What: Stainless steel and

mild steel abstract sculptures

for display and sale

When: Through September

Where: Blue Whole Gallery,

129 W. Washington St.

More information: Joining McCaffrey as the September artist of the month is watercolorist and pastel painter Catherine Mix.

Contact: The gallery at 681-6033; McCaffrey at

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