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The heat is on

Lynn Woolson morphs metal into playful garden art in her backyard for your backyard
by: vern uyetake Lynn Woolson of West Linn crafted a career in metal artwork through her big ideas and ability to “figure out how to make them.”

For Lynn Woolson, metal artwork has a certain spark.

And it is at her 7-acre property off Borland Road on Ribera Lane in West Linn that her love of welding forges ahead.

In the morning, roosters crow, dew drips from hanging mobiles and Woolson begins her workday with recycled metal in a large barn in her backyard overlooking her Christmas tree farm.

'When it's cold I wear an insulated suit,' she said of working in her open-air studio and wearing heavy, Carhartt overalls. 'And I can always go get in the hot tub.'

But rain or shine, it's the process of melting metal and melding her love of pottery and metal that fuels Woolson's passion. With her flame torch in hand, Woolson smiles when mentioning that an aluminum table she saw 10 years ago inspired her, a fabric weaver, to begin working with metal.

'I thought, 'I can do that,'' she said. 'The funny thing is, though, I've made everything but a table.'

Specializing in garden art shaped as anything from hearts and stars to dog bones, spheres and people figurines from rebar, Woolson said she gets most of the materials for her work from steel yards. And while she doesn't usually name her pieces, her garden decorations each have a unique personality.

'I did a water fountain in the winter - it was a commission (job),' Woolson said. 'It was fun and challenging. I had to make it look good - and get the water to flow.'

Woolson said it's these challenges that keep her spending more and more time in her workshop.

'Pretty much every day I'm down here,' she said. 'Learning how to manipulate (the metal) has been a slow but rewarding process.'

She began by taking classes at Clackamas Community College and Chemeketa Community College in Salem. But, trial and error, experimentation and incorporating other mediums - like Raku pottery - into her metal sculptures is how she learns best. And her many machines - like the one that rolls, cuts and bends metal is 'a thing of beauty' - and makes Woolson's job a lot easier. The most time consuming part? Coming up with ideas to make each piece unique.

'I wanted a dripping fall piece and to go taller,' she said, holding a newly completed sculpture in a shape similar to a teardrop. 'I'm trying to go taller.'

Previously, Woolson's degree in criminal justice led to a career as a patrol officer. But now she said she is focusing on her metal work full time.

'I've been working on this horse,' she said. 'I'm inspired by seeing other art, like the wood horses at the airport, so I'm trying to make that out of rebar.'

Heating up her Baby Whisperer Forge high-efficiency burner, Woolson hammers the metal when it's hot and welds each piece together to form the horse's body.

Surrounded by torches, tools, hammers and anvils, Woolson's days spent working - with her dog, Cleo, by her side -become worth it when she shares her creations at local art festivals like Cracked Pots, featuring art from recycled materials, at McMenamins Edgefield; and locally at West Linn's Arts Festival in the Forest and West Linn Arts Festival - which she helps organize.

To view Woolson's work and find out where she will be next, visit www.lynn

woolson.com.