The welder’s apprentice

| 09 Mar 2012 | 11:27

Photos by Mike Bloom / Story by Dirt

Sculptor Zac Shavrick, 24, digs through the dumpsters outside Brakewell Steel in Chester for the scrap metal he’ll weld into creatures resembling Kafkaesque beetle-men or aliens from Independence Day. He’s been diving for scraps since he was 3, when his dad, also a sculptor, would lift him into the dumpster to pick out metal bits.

Where to find scrap, and just about everything else a sculptor needs to know, Zac learned from his dad Barry. Father and son share studio space in the form of a rundown barn in Ferndale, Sullivan County. Barry, the artist behind a Judaica sculpture garden (think giant menorahs) in the Hasidic hamlet of Monsey in Rockland County, got his start as a gate welder in Israel.

Zac seeks out other mentors, too, like J.J. Veronis, a Brooklyn street sculptor, and the professor who taught him bronze casting at SUNY Purchase, where Zac earned his fine arts degree.

“I don’t know if it was necessary,” Zac said of his formal schooling. “But it was fun.”

His financial success has come in fits and starts. Right now he’s in the middle of what you might call a scrapload of work. The recession inspired Zac to go smaller and cheaper.

He advertised an offer: send in a photo of yourself and get back your sculpted 10-inch likeness, in human or monster form. Zac got 150 commissions.

These little guys only take Zac about two hours a pop, but they take a toll in frustration.

“With big sculptures, I have time to think about my next move. With little sculptures I’m constantly making directorial decisions on each step. Every move counts. The smaller you go, the more difficult it is. The tools I’m using are built for much larger-scale.”

Zac’s next move is going to be a 50-foot sculpture “you’d actually be able to interact with a little.” So if you see a rusty 30-ton beast with lion body and the head of a man emerging from a barn, it’s not the second coming. It’s just Zac.