Blowin' in the Wind
John Garret Thew
Pigs and planes, horses and hounds, deer and dories - John Garret Thew has explored them all when creating his renowned copper weathervanes, which serve both function and fashion atop barns and homes nationwide.
Thew, who has been making the hammered copper weathervanes since 1972, continues to expand his line of products, often responding to special requests from clients. I am doing a beaver and a jumping trout right now as special orders, he said.
He has metal forms for his standard designs, but for special orders he begins with a drawing and then crafts a plaster mold. Over this he pours Hydrostone, one of the strongest of gypsum cements. Finally, he takes sheets of copper to hammer over the mold, creating the elements he will solder together to make his full-bodied weathervanes.
Hydrostone is tough enough so you can hammer into it, he explained.
Many of Thews clients are repeat customers. I am making a hound for customer, he reported. They already have two jumping horses and a fox and now they want a hound. He marvels that the figures are not mounted outdoors atop buildings, but in the clients kitchen. It must be a big kitchen, he said. The horses alone are three feet long.
He said that the fox is probably the figure his clients favor most.
Thew said he started by making sculptures that were cast in foundries. I cast things before but then I thought hammering might be more satisfactory, he said. This way I have to do all the work, but I like having my hands right on it.
His career began after World War II, working in his fathers Westport studio, where they made lamps and other decorative items. Then, after moving to Norfolk, he began making weathervanes. He and his artist wife, Eve, work in a studio attached to their home.
He says he doesnt count the hours it takes to create a newly designed weathervane. It could take weeks if you count the design and making the mold, he said, but I dont like to equate time with money.
Thew has made weathervanes for many well-known people over the years, but probably his most famous client was John Wayne, whose wife ordered one called the wild goose.
In addition to weathervanes, the artist does watercolors he sells at the Norfolk Farmers Market as well as kinetic sculptures. He expects to exhibit a recent sculpture showing a lawyer, judge and jury at the Norfolk Artists and Friends Show Aug. 8-10 on the grounds of the Yale Summer School of Art. He says that when a crank is turned the lawyer points at the judge, who shakes his head and then turns to the jury, the members of which shake and nod their heads in a split decision.
Thew's weather vanes can be purchased at the Connecticut Store, 116 Bank Street in downtown Waterbury, at Shoreline Interiors, 533 Main Street, Dennis, MA 02638 (link below) or by calling Thew at 860-542-5003. He does not have a website.