When most people think of lawn ornaments, they probably think of those creepy garden gnomes who are out to steal your soul, not a metallic knight looking ready to strike and start a fight.
Sanford Stragnell, known as Sandman to his friends and family, has a different idea of lawn art. In his backyard on South Street, there is a knight made from a rusted chain, circular saws, and other scrap metal. But there is much more than just the warrior guarding his back yard.
There is a metal squad of butterflies, metal birds, metal spiders, a metal dinosaur and even a crocodile immersed in snow.
His Art is not going unnoticed.
“I enjoy walking by and seeing the sculptures every day. You can tell how much effort is put in and they’re original,” said Connor Kukla, a Castleton senior and next-door neighbor of “Sandman.”
Another neighbor and Castleton student, Theodore Laquidara, is also a fan.
“My favorite thing is the knight. It’s savage,” Laquidara said.
The longtime Castleton resident has been crafting art from metal he collects for over 40 years.
“I thought it was a lark,” said his wife Pam Stragnell. “I had no idea he was quite so serious about it.”
“It’s a compulsion. I have to make them,” Sanford said with a smile ear from ear.
The interior of his house is even more decked out with metal art pieces in every room.
The volume of pieces was mind-blowing. There are frogs made of shovels and a bird made of bike chains and scissors among countless other creations.
The most concentrated section of art is the shelves in the room adjacent to the kitchen. Each level is filled side to side with pieces made from as far back as his college days to present time.
There's a hand holding a glass ball made of copper wire. A small family of bullet people represents him and wife swinging their daughter between their arms.
His family is an essential part of the work he does.
She (Pam) helps me focus my creativity and give me purpose,” he said.
His most memorable piece is called two hearts meet as one.
“When my wife Pam got sick, I didn't know how to give her the support, and I came up with the concept where I take two copper hearts, and I connect them as one together. Together it is like two hearts meet as one,” he said.
He took the concept further and makes them exclusively for good friends and family who need support.
Working with metal the way he does requires a safe environment to contain the tools, large equipment and a terrifying power hammer that resembles a sewing kit.
During a tour of the studio where the magic happens, he demonstrated with a piece of metal hammered with the force of a powerful machine showing how the craft is much more dangerous than it seems.
Next to the studio is a shed that is almost overflowing with metal “waiting to become stuff,” Sandman said.
“I feel like a little kid at Christmas time,” he said of his shed full of options.
Soon his work set up like a gallery at his home allowing people to come to enjoy the art in a relaxing setting. The gallery will also be featured in the Vermont Artisan Tour and will be open to the public.