DE PERE, Wis. — David C. Windey isn’t one to shy away from a challenging piece of art requiring reparative work.
After all, it’s that attention to detail that makes it unique.
“Like putting 15,000 nails on a tree or 1,000 little pickers,” he said while pointing at a metal cactus in his metal shop studio in De Pere.
Windey, owner of Windey Metal Art Sculptures, spent most of his metal working career with Ritchie Metal Works making custom railings and staircases. Six or seven years ago he started branching out into art while at Ritchie before moving to a full-time artist about two years ago.
He’s finding a national market for his trees: welded trunks and branches covered with thousands of UV coated plastic leaves that are held on by thousands of little nails. Customers range from homeowners to schools and municipalities.
His work goes beyond the trees to include sculptures ranging from an aluminum elephant balancing on ball to a wooly mammoth and an Arabian horse. All are welded in metals and forged from his background in the business.
“Since my father was one of the owners, I worked through all the possible jobs in this,” Windey said. “I painted, weld, cut, grind, clean, install, measure. I did them all.”
He was recently chosen by the the Green Bay Public Arts Commission to create a 12-foot tall sculpture depicting several stages of a dandelion’s development.
“The moment you see his work, it’s mind boggling,” she said, “The amount of detail and attention to every little thing he puts into his work.”
The sculpture is expected to be unveiled this spring.
Windey has created more than 200 trees for customers across the country. He said there’s a little bit of nervousness that comes with each delivery.
“Most people are shocked and amazed because it’s better than what they were expecting,” he said. “You take pictures of something and it’s hard to get a grasp of the detail and everything from just a picture. It just doesn’t capture it.”
Windey said he never thought he could be an artist, but it’s been a successful transition.
“I’m working more now than I was when I was working for Ritchie Metal Works and doing my art work — because I want to be successful,” he said. “It keeps building up and spreading out to where other people are noticing. It’s working, and that’s very encouraging.”