Treasure conjured from trash

00:00, Jan 30 2013
pendrecki orchestra
ODD FISH: Bruce Derrett casts a critical eye over i John Dory one of his latest creations.

An eye for collecting junk and a penchant for what others may consider hoarding, has led to a new creative venture for Motueka artist Bruce Derrett.

From his home on the outskirts of Motueka, Bruce makes sculptures in a neatly organised workshop, sourcing materials from what he terms his "parts department" - a lean-to area outside akin to a small wrecker's yard.

He is far from disorganised and has all his collected parts including old electric drills, chainsaw and bike chains, blades, bolts, old nails and car bonnets, stacked up or sorted into containers.

"I know exactly where everything is," says Derrett, who now works fulltime making sculptures.

It started a few years back when he taught himself gas metal arc welding, while still working on dairy farms and orchards. Those early pieces are now sitting in the garden and displayed inside his home, shared with partner Jocelyn White.

When Bruce started to make more work, and it sold easily, Jocelyn says she knew it was time for him to go fulltime, doing what he loves. In September last year they agreed that he would "give it a go for one year", then see how the business has gone.


So far Bruce's work has been well received by the public, with strong sales. Bruce sells at the Nelson Saturday Market, and says that is enough for now. He generally works more than 40 hours per week, and some of this time may not be conventional hours as he can work into the evening to finish a piece. He loves the freedom of being able to take off during the day to check out parts or go to garage sales.

"I've always pottered, even as a kid, pulling things apart," says Bruce. He loves making pieces and finds it stimulating, "I can use my brain a bit."

He never draws anything he will make. "Sometimes I use a picture, but mostly designs come out of my head." He then collects up all the separate pieces needed for a particular sculpture, before assembling them.

He works on one piece at a time, as he says he would never get any finished if he worked on more at once. This also means he never has two pieces that are the same, it just depends what he has collected and is available at the time. "You can't have two pieces the same; it's just about impossible to find the same parts," Bruce says.

Bruce's work is all made from metals arc-welded together, often a very time-consuming process.

But it is not just a matter of finding the junk then assembling it. He has to dismantle tools and machinery then clean all the pieces by tumbling the parts in an old concrete mixer with gravel and water.

Bruce makes an array of sculptural forms; large and small bugs, including dragonflies, spiders and grasshoppers, quirky birds, pigs, large vessels, spheres, and fish. Just to illustrate how many elements he may use in one sculpture, his large fish piece, John Dory, was made using lengths of chainsaw chain, spade drill bits, shearer's blades, fish hooks, bike spokes, pliers, washers, and a Stromberg carburettor.

It turns out that there is a lot of truth in the saying "one man's trash is another man's treasure".

BRUCE'S TIPS Believe in yourself and give it a go. Having a supportive partner is really important.