Augusta artists use new skills to craft giant sculptures
Visitors to Augusta find the giant duck hanging out in one of the yards in town an irresistible selfie stop. If they think the duck’s 23 1/2-foot wingspan is intriguing, they should have been around when Bigfoot made his appearance.
Like the duck, the 12-foot-tall metal sculpture dubbed “Tom’s Samsquach” began life here in the tiny garage studio of Augusta Missouri Metal Arts. He currently stops traffic on Highway 100 east of Washington, where employees of 5th & Oak Auto Body roll him out each morning to greet customers.
Then there’s the cutaway Martin guitar titled “Heritage,” also 12 foot tall and faithful to the iconic design of the original. It took three years to make this piece, which was crafted from repurposed scrap metal found in Augusta’s Missouri River bottoms. This sculpture was discovered in the front yard by a patron of the arts, purchased and donated to the Kirkwood Performing Arts Center.
These and other monumental metal sculptures are the work of metal artists Ben Boyher and Brian Watson. The two friends began their partnership not as artists but as owners of B Flash, a metal roofing company.
After a career that included serving in the Navy on nuclear-powered submarines and doing plasma gas research in Idaho, Brian moved to Augusta. Ben, who is a cousin to Brian’s wife, had spent a lifetime doing construction in east-central Missouri.
“It was slow for me and we started doing roof flashings for a buddy’s company,” Ben says. “Then we got the opportunity to start doing some architectural sheet copper. After that we dropped everything else and we just did that.”
Over the years they developed a solid reputation based on their skills at installing copper roofs and flashing for windows, chimneys and other architectural details. In time they were called on to roof million-dollar homes being built in St. Charles and St. Louis counties.
The jobs got bigger, their skills grew and the demand for their services pushed them to the limits. “We bit off a big chunk,” Brian admits. “We chewed hard to get through that. And we were successful in it. We did huge roofs, we did big turrets, weathervanes, very complicated stuff.”
That’s when the demands of copper roofing lost its luster for Ben and Brian. They considered other opportunities, with Ben’s wisdom always bringing Brian’s dreams back to reality. “We’ve made some decisions along the way not based on money, but on what we want to be doing,” Brian says.
Ben nods, adding, “In the last couple years we started making some smaller copper stuff. Weathervanes. Sculpture. Relief in copper sheets. We had a lot of scrap from these houses.”
Those early efforts at artistic expression were beat into the soft copper using a hammer and a sandbag. “That was our first attempts at shaping the copper,” Brian says, pointing to a stylized face, a frog and a hollow fish. “It’s called repousse and chasing. What you are doing is pounding the back of the panel, flipping it over and then pushing it back to kind of give it that relief.”
Soon the work grew larger. The two were commissioned to build a series of outdoor-themed panels for a cabin. They built a weathervane featuring a 5-foot-tall cowboy riding a bucking bronco, mounted to a 6-foot arrow. Their work included furniture, range hoods, fireplace screens and lamps.
“We started pounding on this copper and it was all pretty experimental,” Brian recalls. “I was doing this on the side mostly. Then Ben stepped in and we began to take it really seriously as a team. And it was so much more fun than a real job.”