2014William Brock - Rusted Bird Studio. All Rights Reserved.
Self-taught artist William Brock was born and raised in Sequatchie County TN, the son of a coal mining Pentecostal preacher. He was based in Atlanta for over twenty years of his working life and supervised high-rise and other commercial construction all over the Southeast—taking structure, aesthetics, and movement into consideration. In the late 90s he decided he’d had enough of Atlanta traffic and crushing schedules and moved back to Tennessee, where he eventually settled into his own version of semi-retirement: finishing drywall and spending as much time as he could on the back of a horse.
Now, almost two decades later, Brock has become a self-taught metal artists and blacksmith. The calluses on his hands are a testament to each ring of the hammer and each individually hand-cut feather. He began his artistic journey by making life-size birds out of welded rebar and recycled tin and copper roofing.
“There’s so much beauty and grace in nature, and we keep covering it up with concrete. I’ve certainly done my share of it,” says Brock. “But as a kid, I tagged along with my grandmother, who was Muskogee. She used the natural world as her medicine cabinet, and she taught me a lot about plants and animals. I hunted with my daddy and uncles. I practically lived in the woods as a kid. As a grown man and a sportsman, I hunted and fished some of the most beautiful habitat in the South. I no longer hunt, but I’ve spent a good deal of time riding my horse on old logging roads and deer trails and studying animals, birds in particular. Their connection to the prehistoric world fascinates me.”
One of his most recent birds, a Great Blue Heron landing on a limestone rock, has a wing span of 80 inches. “The engineer in me focused on learning how to make a bird look accurate in size and proportion,” says Brock. “When I managed that, I got more into showing movement and the grace inherent in a bird’s motion, particularly larger water fowl. I give myself different challenges to convey the spirit and physics as well as the form of a particular bird, give it some sense of animation, while maintaining the structural integrity. And each bird takes on its own personality. I always learn something from the bird I’m making. As I move more and more into forging iron, it’s the same way. I learn something from every figure, object, tool, or knife I make.”
The principle materials used for his birds are old roofing tin, used five-gallon plastic buckets, rebar, old copper flashing, and wire. Birds can be made from new tin or copper and clear-coated, if the buyer prefers that, but Brock considers the gradual rusting and patina of the birds to be part of the piece’s maturation. Most birds come with either a stone, cedar, or bodock base. Birds can be easily removed and placed in the ground as well. Some of Brock’s creations have found a home outdoors on ponds or in gardens, and some roost inside, nestled among plants near a large window or on a shelf or mantel piece. If kept outside, any exposed, unrusted metal will eventually take on a beautiful rusted finish, or in the case of the copper birds, a beautiful blue-green patina. Each bird is banded with a copper ring bearing William Brock’s signature.
“One morning I had several metal herons and cranes sitting in the grass outside my studio,” says Brock. “I was across the yard in a shed when I saw a Blue Heron land in front of my birds and spend a couple of minutes checking them out. When I stepped into the yard, he flew away. I don’t know if he was looking for a fight or for love, but he let me know I’m doing something right.”
Brock’s birds can be found in private collections from New England to Florida and from Washington DC to Washington State. His sculptures are for sale at Cedar Creek Gallery in Creedmoor, NC and additional exhibitions and festivals. See his schedule for more information.