HEARTWELL, Neb. — Most people wouldn't be happy to see junk on their back porch. But when Sally Jurgensmier sees a heap of metal, it puts a smile on her face.
Jurgensmier makes and sells metal sculptures — using what others would consider junk — from her workshop in Heartwell. It's hard to imagine one of her whimsical sculptures as a lifeless heap of cold metal.
“Sometimes people look at my stuff and start making their own interpretations. That doesn't bother me. There is no wrong interpretation when it comes to art,” Jurgensmier said.
The Heartwell native has a bachelor's degree in art from Hastings College. She has been dabbling in art for about 20 years.
She owned and ran an antiques store in Minden from 1996 to 2006. Seven years ago she started selling her recycled metal sculptures full time after her father died and left an empty farmhouse at Heartwell. Jurgensmier said her workshop was at the farmhouse, and the house needed “a warm body” in it.
“I was in-between jobs and careers. I still enjoyed metalworking. I had some dear friends who encouraged me to do my sculptures full time,” Jurgensmier said.
Most of her current projects are custom and commissioned sculptures. Welding appealed to her because of how different it is from traditional art.
“Initially it was so out of my character. I don't want to say it was a man's trade, but you do think of males more than females. It was just intriguing to me, I think, because it was just so different,” Jurgensmier said.
Some of the time spent making her sculptures involves finding the junk and cleaning the pieces. Getting a good weld often means cleaning off rust. Jurgensmier considers her artwork a form of recycling. She loves the challenge of putting new life in something that's been thrown away.
Her custom orders can take about two to three months. On a recent day her workshop had two metal sculptures of Christmas trees for the holiday. She also does custom signs. Like many artists, there is always the need to feel connected to her art.
“It's very gratifying to have a satisfied customer,” Jurgensmier said. “It's very gratifying to see someone else excited about something I'm excited about, to look at a piece of junk that's been discarded and thought to be lifeless.
“And here I can somehow turn it around and somehow give it some spirit.”