From trash to treasure: Krebs Kreations features custom steel fabrication, woodworking and taxidermy products
Tom Krebs of Dickinson looks at a pile of scrap metal with an artist's eye. He can envision an eagle, scorpion, pheasant or starfish by welding a few parts together.
Having worked as a commercial welder, he started his own business, Krebs Kreations, about five years ago.
"I create metal artwork out of scrap iron and found items," said Krebs. "I perform various welding tasks and also do custom fabrication for customers such as steel signs, gates, stairs, benches and mailboxes."
Krebs started drawing wildlife sketches at age 14, but wasn't interested in metal sculpture until he was 18. He was trained as a welder by his dad, Tom Krebs.
"He catches on pretty fast," the elder Krebs said of his son. "I think his work is real nice -- he knows what he's doing."
Krebs joined his dad as a welder at General Steel where he learned about steel fabrication and metallurgy.
He credits his mother, Kathy Krebs, for fostering a love of art that led to his pursuit of metal sculpture.
"He's always been a perfectionist -- there's nobody who is harder on him than he is," Kathy Krebs said. "He does something to his very best and it shows in his work. How many people can do a job they love to do -- he's happiest when he's working with steel. We support him 100 percent in everything he does."
Tom Krebs said he likes the creativity that metal sculpture offers.
"I think there is a certain freedom in creating something with your bare hands and using your imagination to create something valuable out of something that has no value," Krebs said. "I think that art can be found almost anywhere if you look hard enough."
Working with steel
He likes working with steel because it's tough, durable and will last for hundreds of years. It's easily manipulated, yet steel can be unforgiving, Krebs said.
"That's the beauty of steel, that something so strong and unforgiving can be transformed into something creative and unique that will last for many generations," he said.
His collection of scrap metal fills a steel barn, a shed and is stockpiled outdoors on his grandma's farm south of Lefor.
"I go to auction sales at farms selling antique equipment," he said. "Some of it is pretty affordable, and I know some farmers who let me look at their stuff. Some of it is getting tough to find like the wheels."
"When I'm looking at stuff, I immediately have an idea for it," he said. "Other times, it takes a few weeks."
Seeing art in nature
An outdoorsman, Krebs walks pastures looking for natural items such as antlers, driftwood, bones, rocks or even turtle shells.
"I get ideas when I'm hunting and fishing and I feel that I can think more clearly when I'm out in the wild," he said. "I always have a notepad with me so I can write down good ideas so I won't forget them."
Krebs welds in a garage in Dickinson or in a quonset at the farm. Most of the art is stored in an art shack.
"I work pretty much every day doing custom work or building sculpture," he said. "Welding is not easy work and it can be dangerous -- you expect to be burned once in a while."
When Krebs isn't making steel art, he's into woodworking, photography, drawing, taxidermy products and painting.
"Although I have yet to master any of these, I'm trying my best to increase my skills and to learn as much as I can in these areas," he said. "I'm always looking for different ways to create new and unique artwork."
He recently sold his artwork and took orders at a Pride of Dakota show held in Dickinson.
"I'm pretty much booked -- I had quite a few orders from that," he said.
When he launched out on his own, Krebs was worried there wouldn't be enough work.
"That hasn't been a problem," he said.
Favorite designs include pheasants and deer. He's also has calls for mining equipment miniatures and mounts for deer heads.
Weathered wood from abandoned farms is another of Krebs' treasures. He uses it to make plaques, shelves and he has even made a headboard.
Krebs knows of other metal sculptors in the region, but not many.
"Generally, welders work with metal fabrication and are not really artists," he said. "I take great pride in my work and strive for perfection in all that I do."
Down the road, Krebs would like to make larger sculptures on consignment. For now, he's happy to build up his inventory and invest in more equipment.