News State Victoria News The Spanner Man: one of the most unusual artists
Updated:

The Spanner Man: one of the most unusual artists

Emily Stewart/ABC
Share
Twitter Facebook Reddit Pinterest Email

Three hours out of Melbourne, in the small farming community of Boort, is one of the world’s most unusual artists.

John Piccoli welds giant sculptures out of spanners – earning him the nickname the Spanner Man.

His garden is littered with dozens of larger-than-life sculptures of mermaids, marlin, and even a full horse and wagon.

• Stranded Spirit of Tasmania passengers cleared
Govt backburn may have led to Xmas Day blaze
Woman seeks human cat ‘to purr for her’

It all started when he leased out his mixed grain and stock farm after running it for three decades, from his wheelchair.

John Piccoli, known as the Spanner Man, has spent every day in his workshop for the past 15 years. Photo: Emily Stewart
John Piccoli, known as the Spanner Man, has spent every day in his workshop for the past 15 years. Photo: Emily Stewart/ABC

“I got polio in 1949. So I have grown up with having the disability that I have got,” Mr Piccoli said.

“Once I leased the farm there was nothing really left to do, so something had 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.”

The Spanner Man won't sell any of his works and most have stayed in his front garden. Photo: Emily Stewart
The Spanner Man won’t sell any of his works and most have stayed in his front garden. Photo: Emily Stewart/ABC

His wife Sonia said he started making furniture and soon moved on to large artwork.

“He came to me and said, ‘Oh come and see what I’ve been doing in the workshop’,” she said.

“I go to the workshop and he’d made a beautiful coffee table out of the spanners.”

This seven metre tall sculpture of a marlin contains three to four thousand spanners and took eight months to build. Photo: Emily Stewart
This seven-metre tall sculpture of a marlin contains three to four thousand spanners and took eight months to build. Photo: Emily Stewart/ABC

John uses blocks and tackles in the workshop to move the heavy sculptures around.

He buys most of the spanners at swap meets around Victoria or by the 1000 in batches from his local hardware store.

He has created more than a 100 sculptures – using more than a 100,000 spanners so far.

John does not use plans or drawings and works only from memory. He said he had not made a mistake yet.

At around $2 a spanner, John had to find a way to fund his sculpting, so he started letting visitors come through.

The sculptures are proving a big drawcard for the tiny farming community. Photo: Emily Stewart
The sculptures are proving a big drawcard for the tiny farming community. Photo: Emily Stewart/ABC

With just 700 residents in Boort, the thousands of visitors who come to see John’s work and then shop, eat and stay in town are providing a big boost for local business.

Boort Tourism Committee’s Paul Haw has known John since school days and spent two years convincing him to let visitors come through.

“I think the first year he had 700 people – it doubled every year, and now I think it’s getting close to 10,000 people a year,” Mr Haw said.

Luckily for Boort, John has no plans to stop sculpting.

“The plan is I will weld up until the day I die, that’s the plan,” he said.

“I don’t intend to waste away in a nursing home for the last 10 years of my life.

“I’d love to die in the workshop while I am welding. That would be the ultimate.”

-ABC

Comments
View Comments