Many of us have a junk drawer at home, full of old keys, cutlery, tools, and safety pins. And while most of us would rather avoid sifting through it, Carolina-based upcycling artist Matt Wilson (aka Airtight Artwork) would jump at the chance. He uses discarded objects and scrap metal to create charming animal sculptures.
Wilson began crafting bird sculptures back in 2017, but his portfolio has now expanded to include creatures of all kinds. From a cat to a squirrel, each elaborate piece captures the forms of its real-life counterpart in metal. Wilson even created a praying mantis that looks like a futuristic robotic insect. It features a head, thorax, abdomen, and wings made from silverware, as well as six spindly legs made from upcycled metal utensils. “It's a piece I've poured a lot of time and detail into,” Wilson reveal to My Modern Met. “I dedicated a whole month to this bug and am really proud of the way it came together.”
Wilson’s metal mammals and insects are seriously impressive, but the artist’s bird sculptures are his specialty. He’s able to capture the character of all kinds of feathered friends in metal, including woodpeckers, blue jays, and owls. Wilson cleverly welds together spoon heads and fork prongs to create plumage, and often uses curled metal wire for the bird’s talons. The talented artist is extremely prolific, too. Wilson recently released a flock of 100 birds on this online store that sold out almost immediately.
As he continues to craft birds, Wilson’s style and process has evolved over the years. He tells us, “I'm working on multiple aspects of the birds at once, which allows for a more cohesive collection.” Wilson has also started mounting his metallic sculptures on wooden plaques that are handcrafted by his friend and fellow craftsman, Jacob Kent. Wilson explains, “As the birds evolved, I wanted their background to evolve as well.”
Wilson’s upcycled work is all about valuing our environment and resources. “My goal as an artist is to make artwork unlike art people have seen, while at the same time recognizable in the identity of everyday materials,” he says. “I only hope the sculptures will inspire others to appreciate the simple, neglected items from which my creations are born.”
Check out some of Wilson’s scrap metal animal sculptures below and find more from his portfolio on his website.