ESSEX — Artist Chris Williams’ studio has been transformed into a coral reef complete with fish, seaweed and octopuses.
Williams, 41, who does metal artwork and operates Chris Williams Sculpture out of his garage on Rocky Hill Road, is currently creating the ocean scene using bronze, steel, and rocks for a project that will soon be on display at Logan International Airport.
The piece is scheduled to be installed in early March and should be there for at least six months, Williams said.
The project was initiated by Williams as a way to advertise his work and to interact with people from all over the world who may pass by the sculpture while in the terminal.
"People see a piece and they call," said Williams, who has done other projects like this in the past. "To make a living doing this, you have to get your work out there."
Yesterday, Williams and his partner — Phil Palminteri of Gloucester, who has worked with Williams for a little over a year — applied the finishing touches for the piece, which had to be large enough so no one could steal it, yet safe for children to be around. Palminteri welded what will become a barrier between people and the sculpture while Williams worked on some detail work.
The base made out plywood and rocks found in Williams' backyard will be set on the floor while some fish will be mounted to the wall. One of the fish — an Angler fish — was inspired by the multiple times he watched the Disney movie "Finding Nemo" with his two young children, 3- and 5-years-old.
He did similar work at the Manchester-Boston Regional Airport in New Hampshire, where he displayed three giraffes, a moose, a dragon and a rhinoceros. All of those pieces were eventually sold, with the moose being bought by the airport and still on display there.
"When I was at the Manchester Airport, I met people from all over the world," Williams said, "and I am hoping Logan is the same way."
He hopes to develop a relationship with Logan to do project like this about twice a year, he said.
Williams' career as an artist started in the back of his family's metal shop in Rockport, owned by his grandfather and father.
"I grew up earning my allowance working in their shop," Williams said. "But I always associated it with work, and as soon as I was done I would leave."
This is where Williams started experimenting with welding.
At age 25, he built a go-kart for friends followed by a mini-bike with a side car. Before discovering artwork, Williams had planned to be a tattoo artist or repair and build motorcycles.
This is when he made two small dinosaurs out of scrap metal for his friend's two kids. From there he decided to build larger sculptures, including a man on a unicycle, a great blue heron, and a few other things.
"It all happened very fast," Williams said. "Within six months people were buying stuff from me off the back loading dock."
The unicyclist was his first piece sold through Local Colors, the Main Street artists' cooperative in Gloucester.
Much of his work is custom and requires specialized tools that he has to make himself. He names each of these unique tools — for instance, the "Purkle," a small detail tool that helps define lips and eyelids. Other tools include a tool called "Da Bomb."
"Every job has a unique shape you are looking for and you can't buy a tool for it," said Williams, "So we end up making them."
Williams has sold artwork around the world, from Scottsdale, Ariz, to France.
In the past, Williams has made a bear for Bridgewater State College, a tree frog for Biolabs in Ipswich and a buffalo for a cemetery in Buffalo, N.Y.
However, he said it is his private commissions that drives his business, many of whom find out about him from his public displays.
Much of his work focuses on animals and is nature-based.
An 1,800-pound bronze rhinoceros commissioned by a New Hampshire man has recently been shown off around town — including, a few weeks ago, at Lil' Sprouts preschool on Scotts Way and on Messy Art Night at Essex Elementary School.
"It was a lot of fun," said Williams. "I got to spend time with the kids making sculptures out of tinfoil and wire."
The rhino is currently in his driveway and may also be displayed at Logan Airport before it is installed at its new home in New Hampshire, he said.
Williams said he loved his job because it brings something new everyday. He doesn't just like creating the sculptures, he likes coming up with the concepts and designing them as well.
His property is filled with sculptures including a vulture, dinosaurs and metal artwork displayed on his mailbox. He hopes to build and open a new studio on his property this summer, with more studio space and a room to display his work.
An octopus, a bonsai tree and fireplace screen that Williams made can be also seen at Gloucester's Latitude 43 restaurant.
For more information on Williams go to: http://www.chriswilliamssculpture.com.
Jonathan Phelps can be reached at 98-283-7000, x3447, or via e-mail at email@example.com.