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Nova Scotia man turning scrap metal to artwork, donating proceeds to charity


An accidental artist

Self-taught scrap-metal artist Tim Freeman can look at a discarded metal object and clearly see the head of a fish, plumage of a heron or leg of a deer.

“My creations start with one found object. I see a piece and envision a part of an animal, then I go from there, searching for other metal pieces to complete the piece,” said Freeman.

“Welding together ordinary items into unique pieces of metal art is a satisfying retirement hobby for me. It keeps my mind active, and I never stop thinking about how my next creation will take shape.”

 An accidental artist, Freeman stumbled upon his extraordinary talent while working on the family farm.

“Like most farmers, we did our own equipment repairs. My dad couldn’t afford to hire people, so during my teen years, he sent me to learn welding at a night course. I became quite proficient at it,” said Freeman.

“Rather than sitting idle when I retired, I started puttering around in my shop at home, creating tiny dinosaurs by welding together nuts, bolts and small pieces of iron. I found I enjoyed the activity.”

Generous heart

A decade ago, Freeman and wife Anne moved to their eight-acre riverfront property in Upper LaHave, and his detached garage soon morphed into a welding shop, complete with a kiln for heating and bending iron.

Freeman thought he could create and sell metal candlesticks. The problem was, he priced them to reflect the many hours he was putting into making them, and no one wanted to buy them at his high price point.

“I was discouraged, but I told Anne I was going to sell them for a reasonable price, regardless of the time I invested in them, and donate all the money to charity,” he said.

“That was the day everything changed for me. My purpose was clear. I wanted to reinvent myself and, at the same time, help many people in my community.”

Since his epiphany, Freeman has sold numerous pieces of scrap-metal art and donated 100 per cent of the proceeds – more than $60,000 and counting – to local charities and not-for-profit organizations. His creations are often offered at various silent and live auctions, raising significant funds for charities.

Freeman’s generosity has benefited the Bridgewater and Mahone Bay food banks, Second Story Women’s Centre, Lunenburg Folk Harbour Festival, Hope for Wildlife, Mahone Bay Centre, Habitat for Humanity, Brigadoon Village, Rose Himmelman Fund, Health Services Foundation of the South Shore, Mahone Islands Conservation Association, Mahone Bay Museum, Salvation Army and others.

 “Tim is fantastic. He will walk into the food bank unexpectedly and give us a cheque, the proceeds from a recent sale of his art,” said John Biddle, co-ordinator of the Bridgewater Inter-Church Food Bank.

“He even brings his truck to help me pick up boxes of groceries we purchase from local stores.”

Biddle recalls the Freemans hosting a party at their home where guests purchased $3,500 worth of one-of-a-kind scrap-metal art. All the money was donated to the food bank.

Donations of food are certainly gratefully accepted by food banks, but Biddle said cash donations allow volunteers to purchase items most needed by clients, often at prices much lower than retail.

Rhonda Lemire, executive director of the Second Story Women’s Centre in Lunenburg, weighed in on her organization’s experience with Freeman’s altruism.

“Last summer, members of the Nova Scotia Garden Club visited the Freeman property. Tim spoke to the group about his art and I had a chance to speak about the services offered by Second Story. During the event, many of Tim’s metal creations were sold and he donated all the money to us,” said Lemire.

And that’s a huge help, she adds.

“A not-for-profit organization, we operate within the financial constraints of core funding we receive from the provincial government, which doesn’t cover operational expenses, so when community members like Tim help to ease that burden, it allows us to focus on the important task of assisting women,” she said.

“Most of the women we serve – whose ages range from teens to seniors in their 80s – experience poverty or have been subjected to sexual or domestic violence. Demand for our services is expected to increase.”

Second Story is holding its annual fundraising dinner on June 20 at the historic Boscawen Inn in Lunenburg. For details, check out #secstory or www.secstory.com.

Recycled materials 

Most of the found objects used in Freeman’s personal collection of metal art would likely have rusted in obscurity or been buried in landfills had Freeman not liberated them and transformed them into timeless pieces of art. Many of his creations are placed alongside trails throughout his wooded property.

“Our property’s tranquillity influenced my art. All my metal animals fit in with the natural surroundings,” he said.

 There is Bruce the Moose, a 500-lb. gentle beast that took Freeman 400 hours to complete. More than 370 feet of rebar form the framework, which is covered in hundreds of metal objects such as radiator covers, oxen shoes, chain links, hammer heads, car parts, chainsaw chains, hinges, horseshoes and wrenches.

Other members of Freeman’s metal menagerie include Franklin the Turtle, made from brake pads; Harry the Heron, fashioned from scythe blades; Spike the Porcupine, crafted from large nails; Brian the Buck, made from chainsaw chains; and Rex the Greyhound, constructed from push-lawnmower blades.

 “I’ve been to scrapyards all over Nova Scotia looking for interesting items, and I often find boxes of parts left for me on our property. Who leaves them is a mystery, but I certainly appreciate it,” said Freeman.

 “I have fun with my welding torch and kiln. There is nothing about it that makes it seem like work for me.”

 peter_simpson@hotmail.com

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