When Derold and Cindy Becker see gears, nuts and bolts, they don’t think of machinery.
They think of moose, dogs, elephants, alligators and other animals.
The Beckers own Tadpole Creek Creations, a studio near rural Belmont in Kingman County that creates yard art by welding together old metal parts.
Their shop, which sits a mere 100 feet from their front door, is littered with rebar, metal bolts, old shovel heads and a cornucopia of other objects.
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Derold Becker previously worked in construction — mainly doing framing work for other builders. But when the economy tanked in 2008, it took a little creative thinking on his part to survive.
“Initially we sat around for a few months thinking building’s going to come back — people need houses — but after six months went by and we started running through savings, we just felt we needed to do something until the building did come back,” he said.
The Beckers began sculpting wood trellises, arbors and similar projects before graduating to metalworking.
Their business has picked up since 2008 and now creating metal yard art is their full-time job.
“We do put in a lot of hours — maybe not much more than somebody would on a normal job during the week, but during the weekends we always have shows,” Derold Becker said.
The Beckers have traveled to exhibit their artwork as far away as Brookings, S.D. and Albuquerque, N.M.
One of their most popular pieces — a metal cutout of the Keeper of the Plains — is in stock at various Wichita retailers, including Bella Luz and the Mid-America All-Indian Center.
To create the Keeper piece, the Beckers had to get licensed by the estate of Blackbear Bosin, who created the original Keeper, Derold Becker said.
“Wichita loves those,” he said, referring to the Keeper cutouts.
The art the Beckers create can cost anywhere from $20 to hundreds of dollars for the larger pieces.
They are sensitive to pictures of their artwork being put online, for fear that others will plagiarize their ideas.
“Maybe you should be excited that they want to do it too, but ... it is something we do for a living,” said Cindy Becker.
Because it is made of metal, it will eventually rust in the yard after years of exposure to the elements.
Derold Becker’s advice for those who don’t like the “rust patina”?
Keep the art sprayed down regularly with enamel clear-coat.
To see where the Beckers will be exhibiting, visit Tadpole Creek Creations’ website at www.tadpolecreekcreations.com.