HENDRICKS - Plasma cutters are traditionally used in industrial manufacturing, but Hendricks resident Larry Lambertus has put his hand-held cutter to a completely different use: art.
After retiring, Lambertus said he wanted to find a hobby that would keep him busy and involved in the community. During one of their many travels, he and his wife stumbled upon precision cut metal silhouettes at a flea market, a discovery that sparked Larry's interest immediately.
"I had seen these computer cutouts done by a plasma cutter, but they all looked identical," he said. "I wanted to see what I could do freehand."
Photo by Phillip Bock
Larry Lambertus uses a hand-held plasma cutter to create everything from silhouette horses to full-fledged photo reproductions on sheet metal. He creates the design at his shop and puts them up for sale at The Gallery, a artisan shop he opened on Main Street in Hendricks.
Lambertus purchased a hand-held plasma cutter and $200 worth of sheet metal and began experimenting with designs. Starting out, Lambertus said he made cut-out welcome signs and experimented with silhouette portraits from photos.
"It's evolved from that," Lambertus said. "I've made things and gave them away as gifts or made portraits for weddings or engagement couples."
Since those humble beginnings, Lambertus' art style has progressed and he now makes silhouette reproductions of landscape scenery, animals, and photo reproductions.
After amassing a large quantity of silhouettes, and noticing that people were taking an interest in them, Lambertus decided to open up a shop on Main Street Hendricks to sell his work.
"I was out there for just something to do," Lambertus said. "It isn't something I want to make a lot of money at."
Lambertus said his first summer with the store was a great success. He sold to campers from the Hendricks campground, summer visitors, and had several sales resulting from the Hendricks all-school reunion that took place in July.
"I had a fantastic summer," Lambertus said. "I have metal all over the United States right now."
After opening the store, named The Gallery, Lambertus sent out letters area artisans in an effort to offer additional art in the store. Initial interest was slow, but the store now sells various paintings, jewelry, and art in addition to Lambertus' work.
"I thought well, I should have something more than just my stuff," he said. "I was looking for unique, one-of-a-kind things."
Lambertus also began receiving special orders from interested customers who would bring in designs to be cut out. Each piece Lambertus creates is unique, an aspect of his work that he said attracts customers.
"When I opened the store up in June I had all these little designs I had done," he said. "I could have 1,000 things in my store, and I'll still have people who want something else."
Using a plasma cutter to make art is still a new idea, Lambertus said, and he continues to learn the little intricacies of the craft. He learned that holding the device close to the metal creates a thin cut, while holding it farther away makes a wide line. The cuts are rough, he said, something he used to try and smooth out, but decided to keep the edges in after finding that people like the rough look.
"It's weird, it kind of attracts people to the rough edges," he said. "It's a little rustic, but people like that."