With A Book On Welding, He Became A Sculptor

Posted: April 10, 1986

Bruce Kelvin said he never liked attending art class when he was a student at Springfield High School. And he never thought he had any talent as an artist.

Today, Kelvin, 37, devotes all of his time to his craft as a metal sculptor.

Kelvin spends his days in a wheelchair in his Erdenheim studio, sculpting copper, brass and other metals to weld into wall hangings for homes and offices.

Eight years ago, during a trip to a Virginia art show, Kelvin was the victim of a hit-and-run car accident. He suffered a spinal cord injury that left him paralyzed from the waist down.

"For a couple of years I couldn't work, then I wouldn't," he said. "I had always worked standing."

Kelvin's father helped him overcome the handicap and pursue his craft by creating a studio for Kelvin at the family's Wyndmoor home. The sculptor attends most of his shows and drives his own car and van.

"My work is better now than before" the accident, he said. "I have time to think.

"I'm more appreciative," he added. "I'm able to do what I like. After you're not able to do something, you appreciate being able to do it again."

Kelvin's work can be seen along with 80 other exhibitors beginning tomorrow and running through this weekend at the Best of Spring Craft Festival at Willow Grove Park shopping mall in Abington.

A 1967 graduate of Springfield High School, Kelvin had been working as a state highway inspector when he first began to sculpt metal 15 years ago.

"I bought a book on welding and took it from there," he said. Metal mobiles were his first project, then he moved on to free-standing sculptures, and wall hangings of trees, world maps, musical notes and other "abstract" creations.

Kelvin's hobby craft is now a full-time job. He said he worked about 60 hours a week and attended more than 35 art shows a year. He will only make up to 25 copies of each design, charging anywhere from $10 to $500 for each. Larger pieces may take 12 hours or more to create.

"My work is my livelihood," Kelvin said, as he sat in a garage-turned- studio on Bethlehem Pike. He seemed to be at home, surrounded by small metal cuttings of birds and leaves that will soon become a wall hanging for the Willow Grove art show.

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