“I’m a self-taught artist who has felt my way through the process,” says Pam Holthouser. She also spends “way too much time” feeling her way through scrap piles, but the results are worth it — furniture, clocks, wall hangings, jewelry, windchimes, and other home décor that she crafts from found objects and scrap metal.
“My dad was always a crafty kind of guy, and I learned lot from him. He started giving me some of his equipment, and I started doing craft shows.” All her pieces then were made of wood: wall hangings, coat racks, etc. “I became interested in carousel animals and tried my hand at carving those, but in miniature. I’d put them on music boxes. For a while I worked for a duck-decoy business, painting the decoys.”
Holthouser then moved into steel and copper. And she “paints” those materials with fire. “Heating steel, you get a gold color and then it turns blue or purple,” she explains. “My go-to is copper, which has a mind of its own. As I heat it with a torch, that brings up different colors. But if you heat it too long, it will go gray.”
Apparently leaving it on the roof for a century can also make it look dark as pitch. Holthouser is currently working her way through a truckload of 90-year-old copper-roof shingles that have blackened with age. “Some have a black patina, half black and half copper-colored — it’s beautiful,” says the artist, who got the material from the Stanley family in Asheville’s historic Montford district, and paid the favor back in kind: “They have a clock I made from the shingles.”
Much of Holthouser’s work involves finding unusual items that others have discarded — some of them remarkable — and reviving them into collectable art. At a rural junkyard she discovered a huge oxygen tank from a vintage B-52 bomber. She seized it, cleaned it, polished it to a gleaming silver — and hung it in her yard for the world to admire.
She can often be found at Biltmore Iron & Metal, scrounging for scrap that has architectural design. But it might take her a year to find a creative project that fits her found treasures. “I have to have a supply on hand here in the shop, so my studio is a hot mess,” she says. “If art had rules, we might not be called artists, we’d be called engineers. I am always trying to teach myself to be an engineer.”
Taking it down a notch further, she admits that dumpster diving also plays an integral role in her creative process. “That’s where you get the goodies,” she confides.
Pam Holthouser, Red Copper Feather, at Eco Depot Marketplace (408 Depot St. #100 in Asheville’s River Arts District, ecodepotmarketplace.com). Holthouser also sells her work at Sanctuary of Stuff (440 Weaverville Hwy. in Asheville, sanctuaryofstuff.com) and on her website (woodbinedesigns.weebly.com). For more information, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.