Sunday, January 9, 2011
Willy Ferguson's Sculptures
Willy Ferguson, 61, is a welder and sculptor who operates a metal-fabrication shop, but is best known for his oversized metal sculptures of carbon steel: to wit, Staunton’s giant watering can and flower pots at the intersection of U.S. 250 and U.S. 11 and a huge book outside the town’s library.
The son of a Scottish father and a Sicilian mother, Ferguson was born in Edinburgh, Scotland. He came to the U.S. at age seven, when his family settled in Staunton. At the time they lived on the grounds of Western State Hospital, a facility for the mentally ill, where his father was a physician.
After his parents divorced, his father wanted him to go to college, but Ferguson decided on welding school in Richmond. He has built Ferguson Metal Fabrication into a successful operation. Sculptures are a small portion of his business, but by far the most recognizable. People tend to remember giant milk cans, plows and apples. Ten of his works are listed in the Inventory of American Sculpture as part of the Smithsonian's "Save Outdoor Sculpture!" program. These enormous works also represent the most enjoyable work for him and his only full-time employee, Jim Chestnut, who makes medieval armor in his spare time and whose great-grandfather was a blacksmith. They do it with no blueprints, no engineers, no computers. Ferguson doesn’t even own a cell phone.
Not everyone in Staunton had an appreciation for large pieces of metal art. When the watering can (18 ft. tall and 20 ft. wide) and flower pots, commissioned by the local garden club, were installed at a busy intersection in 1999, a mini-brouhaha ensued. Some thought the works an eyesore; others found them amusing and capricious. The controversy eventually passed, and the watering can and pots are still there, on either side of a railroad bridge, now considered iconic Staunton landmarks.
Below is Ferguson's own Big Foot sculpture, alongside the driveway to his workplace.