For 35 years, the 56-year-old has turned objects such as old tools, trac-
tor parts, horseshoes, gears — what he calls “found objects” — into flowers, birds, animals, motor bikes and almost anything imag inable.
“I started out build ing fire escapes in Bal timore City at the age of 17,” he said.
Those early lessons in welding led to a career in creating one-of-a-kind furni ture and lighting fixtures for designer pieces that are on display in model homes in Florida and California, Atlan ta and New York, and in private homes around the country.
“We cater to high-end retailers. I've been doing it for 25 years now, and it's always a challenge,” Machovec said.
There is a lot more to it than using the welding skills he learned as a teen.
“Welding is a minimum part of the whole process. It's just like using glue, but it's knowing how to work with it and how to put things together, and only time can teach you that,” he said. “Every time you do a piece you have to figure it out from scratch, and I love that because that's something that keeps your mind working. I could not do the same thing over and over again.
He uses parts and pieces of old trac tors and plows, spades, shovels and other hand tools he finds in the area.
“What I do is a product of its envi ronment. If I lived along a highway like the (Susquehanna) Trail I would proba bly use car parts, but I live in an area where there are these agriculture parts. If I see bits and pieces of something I can get creative with that,” Machovec said. “I understand the beauty of a to gether piece in itself and I won't de stroy something to make something but I like to use found objects that are no good for anything else.”
His favorite way to spend a day is to “pack a lunch and get lost in the coun try,” where he enjoys talking with farm ers and where he might find a piece or two that he can use at some point.
“It's just great finding things. Some times I don't find anything, but if I find even two little pieces that will make my day,” he said.
There are days when one of those little pieces is an inspiration for a whole new sculpture, he said.
“I might start with a piece that looks like a tongue and build a whole dog around it,” Machovec said.
There are also days when the pieces are simply added to the inventory in his shop.
“Sometimes I start with one piece and build around it. Sometimes it flows together and sometimes it takes forever. . . . A lot of times the part you decide to use dictates the size of your piece and you just have to play around with what you have. There is not a lot of method to the madness, it just seems to work for me and I enjoy the challenge,” he said.
His workshop on Baltimore Street in Glen Rock is filled with finished pieces and others under construction, as well as piles of odd items that might find their way into his next project.
“You keep an inventory in your head,” he said.
Like the box of water shut-off valves he turned into a cat; the horseshoes, sickle blade, electric motor cover, stove pipe, parts of a car fender, iron spoon and spark plug he turned into a motor bike; or the bright eye on a heron that was originally the ball rattling around in a can of spray paint.
He is currently finishing a life-sized wind-up toy — a tiger from old baby carriage wheels with a spring-like tail, a head that turns from side to side and a soon-to-be-added silver wind-up key.
“It has tons of personality,” he said.
His bright-red workshop, with dec orative black grills on the windows, is surrounded by examples of his work. An eye-catching red flower and blue herons grace the lot next door, a fish hangs from the railing along the creek and a colorful bird perches on an elec tric pole.
“I wanted to drive to work and see a place that was nice to look at, a place where I wanted to work, a place where I wanted to be,” he said.
Hanging from the corner of the shop are large fishing lures made by Machovec and out-of-scale fish hooks created by Richard Swaim, a professor at the University of Bal timore and a fellow metalwork er, whose shop is on the second floor.
“This place is perfect. I love it here, except for the flood,” he said, referring to last year's flood.
Machovec said he could not do what he does without family support.
His wife, Shirley Machovec, is the one “who keeps the clock running. She runs the business and the financial end of things. Really, I don't know what I would do without her,” he said.
Their daughter Tara Machovec, 22, writes prose and poetry that has at tracted the interest of New York pub lishers. Following her graduation from HACC this spring she plans to earn a degree in foreign languages.
“Ours is a great family and I am proud to be a part of it. My dad is a huge inspiration to me,” she said.
Their son, Robert J. “Bobby” Macho vec, 21, is following in his father's foot steps in creating sculptures of his own. He completed his first piece — a turtle — when he was 9 or 10 years old, and has never looked back.
“I am interested in so many different things, and I like working with my Dad, I like experimenting with found objects, and I like blacksmithing and forging,” he said. “I would like to con tinue working with my Dad, but I would also like to explore other things, like en trepreneurship,” he said.
Bobby is completing his junior year at Shippensburg University, where he is studying entrepreneurship and has a summer internship with a local con struction company.
If you goMACHOVEC STUDIOS, 11 Baltimore St, Glen Rock, will hold an open house 9 a.m. to
5 p.m. Saturday as part of a community yard sale.
“The public is invited to just pop in and look around and ask me any questions they may have about my work,” Robert Machovec said.
For details, visit www.machovecmetal.com, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 717-227-9516.
WEEKLY RECORD — SONYA PACLOB
A variety of metal objects are stored in Bob Machovec's studio for possible use in future sculptures.
What they said
RICHARD SWAIM, an associate professor at the University of Baltimore, met Machovec 10 years ago, while on sabbatical learning metalworking from Tom Moore.
Today, Swaim creates his out-of-scale fish hooks and fish sculptures on the second floor of Machovec's shop.
“I have several pieces from Bob and I think my first pieces were simple dog and cat sculptures, which were composed of two to three pieces of scrap metal and were elegant in their simplicity. Later, I bought a couple of blue herons,” he said.
He and Machovec built a security gate for a client and friend in East Hampton, N.Y., and Swaim took several of Machovec's pieces to Long Island, N.Y., where they remain on display.
“Bob has a very unique eye and ‘sees' a sculp ture in a pile of junk. He once said ‘Richard, I don't go looking for a cat in the junk, I look at the junk and see a cat,'” Swaim said.
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GLEN ROCK BOROUGH SECRETARY ANN MERRICK said Machovec's work brings color and interest to the borough.
“It's cool, creative and unique. Re-using things is a gift. I ask ‘what do I have in my house that someone could re-use in another way,' but I don't have the eye for that, for seeing something else there. He can visualize it and that is a real gift,” Merrick said.* * *
GLEN ROCK LIBRARY DIRECTOR GINA MUMAW said Machovec's work is intriguing and, for a time, what she described as a large sculp tured bobcat was on display in front of the library.
“From a distance it was beautiful. I believe the eyes were solar bulbs and at night they glowed, but upon closer review, folks were very intrigued with the materials he used to create this master piece,” Mumaw said. “I love that he uses recycled items to create one-of-a-kind sculptures. It's a craft that's so unique in its approach, and the end result always creates a conversation piece.”* * *
SONJA HUNTZINGER, executive director of Downtown Inc, said one of Machovec's motorbikes, a cat and some colorful birds are on display round North George and Philadelphia streets in York.
He was one of seven artists commissioned by Downtown Inc to create items from scrap materials to honor York's industrial heritage.
“The bobble-head cat has a lot of appeal in that he is interactive. I love the birds in that they are a surprise. They are tucked away on lamp posts and when you hear the chirp signaling for you to cross the street, you look up and see the birds and it is sort of like they are chirping,” Huntzinger said.