Many of us have a junk drawer at home that is overflowing with old keys, cutlery, tools, and safety pins. While most of us would prefer not to sift through it, Carolina-based upcycling artist Matt Wilson (aka Airtight Artwork) would seize the opportunity. He creates charming animal sculptures out of discarded objects and scrap metal.
Wilson began making bird sculptures in 2017, but his portfolio has since expanded to include all kinds of creatures. Each intricate piece, from a cat to a squirrel, captures the forms of its real-life counterpart in metal. Wilson even created a praying mantis that resembles a robotic insect from the future. It has a silverware head, thorax, abdomen, and wings, as well as six spindly legs made from upcycled metal utensils. “I poured a lot of time and detail into it,” Wilson revealed to My Modern Met. “I dedicated a whole month to this bug and am very proud of how it turned out.”
Wilson’s metal mammals and insects are stunning, but his specialty is his bird sculptures. He can capture the personality of a variety of feathered friends in metal, including woodpeckers, blue jays, and owls. Wilson cleverly welds spoon heads and fork prongs together to create plumage, and curled metal wire is frequently used for the bird’s talons. The gifted artist is also extremely prolific. Wilson recently released a flock of 100 birds on this online store, which quickly sold out.
Wilson’s style and process have evolved over the years as he continues to create birds. “I’m working on multiple aspects of the birds at the same time,” he says, “which allows for a more cohesive collection.” Wilson has also begun mounting his metallic sculptures on wooden plaques handcrafted by Jacob Kent, a friend and fellow craftsman. “As the birds evolved, I wanted their background to evolve as well,” Wilson explains.
Wilson’s upcycled work is all about appreciating our surroundings and resources. “My goal as an artist is to create artwork that is unlike any other art that people have seen while also being recognizable in the identity of everyday materials,” he says. “I only hope that the sculptures inspire others to appreciate the simple, overlooked items that inspire my creations.”
Check out some of Wilson’s scrap metal animal sculptures below, and visit his website for more from his portfolio.