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The Spanner Man – Wrenchin’

By on March 1, 2016

A wrench is typically associated with gritty work, such as turning nuts and bolts on a grimy engine.

Spanner 1But in the hands of Australian artist John Piccoli, wrenches become a work of art, as he melds the everyday tools into fantastic sculptures and other pieces that are suited for display in elegant gardens and galleries.

Known locally as “The Spanner Man”—a British and Australian word for the common monkey wrench—Piccoli has been confined to a wheelchair since he contracted polio at age 8 in 1949.

Thirty years ago, the wheelchair-bound sculptor from a small town three hours north of Melbourne first began creating small garden sculptures from wrenches he collected. Once he leased out his mixed grain and stock farm after running it for three decades, he needed an activity to fill the void.

“And because these spanners happened to be in boxes in the sheds, I thought I’ll start by making them into something, and it grew from that,” Piccoli said in an interview with ABC News.

Now in his mid-70s, Piccoli is creating large statues and garden art pieces that qualify for museums. His art appears in many galleries around Australia, including Melbourne, Sydney and St. Kilda. His creations include life-sized animal sculptures and human figures, as well as benches and a horse towing a large flatbed wagon.

His large workshop is equipped with a crossover gantry crane and several block and tackles that enable him to work at chair level, yet in three dimensions.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The popularity of his works and the quantity of wrenches needed eventually compelled Piccoli to purchase, as well as collect them. Piccoli buys most of the wrenches at swap meets around Victoria, or by the thousands in batches from his local hardware store. He uses no plans or drawings when creating his works, which number more than 100 sculptures.

The sculpture on display at his farmstead draws an estimated 10,000 visitors a year to the small town of Boort, providing a boost to the local economy, says Paul Haw, of the Boort Tourism Committee.

In the meantime, John says, “I don’t intend to waste away in a nursing home for the last 10 years of my life.”

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