According to the dark depths of a fantasy fandom wiki, dragons are “physically enormous,” with a wingspan averaging 115 to 138 feet and a mass of 16 tons. Though, “some have been recorded at twice this.”
By these measures, Asheville metal sculptor Drew Shook’s almost 10-foot-tall dragon is petite — some would even say tiny. But the creature certainly didn’t feel small when Shook was cutting and shaping 12,000 metal scales to cover the beast from nose to tail.
“Anyone who dabbles in fabrication has had at least one thought of making a dragon,” says Shook, who crafted the firedrake for a client’s private residence in Black Mountain. “This was my chance, and I seized it.”
Seizing opportunities to build massive beasts is Shook’s M.O. In the past, he has welded everything from a “sharkplaneo” (i.e., a bull shark made from a defunct airplane) to an 80-foot-long kraken, the latter of which was sunk off the coast of Virgin Gorda to create an artificial coral reef.
For his most recent project, Shook partnered with Beyond The Reef, an environmental nonprofit based in the British Virgin Islands, to design and build a 46-foot-long humpback whale out of rebar, foam, and resin. Rather than sink the whale, the organization turned it into a museum facility for local children.
“It allows them to come up into the mouth of the whale, go inside, and watch videos and other content on aquatic life,” the artist says.
Though this may all sound decidedly whimsical, Shook’s welding career was born out of tragedy. In the early aughts, he and some buddies went snowboarding. During that trip, a miscalculated move on the slopes broke Shook’s back. The incident limited his mobility for “far too long.” But it also inspired his “slow, steady course towards the art world.”
“After a long stint of sitting around,” the sculptor explains, “I got my legs back under me and wound up taking a welding class.”
That class led Shook to the Welding Technology program at Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College. After graduating in 2007, he moved to New York City and began collaborating with fellow sculptors. About eight years later, he returned home to his native Western North Carolina.
Today, Shook works on a commission basis, creating everything from garden planter boxes to sleek handrails. There’s also the occasional dragon.
“I hope the dragon gives people a sense of wonderment and inspiration,” Shook says of his fantastical creation. “[It’s] just a nice distraction that catches you off guard.”
Drew Shook, Asheville, @VelvetAnvil on Instagram.