Bernard Eiserloh commemorates the trains with sculpture
Published 3:00 am Wednesday, April 15, 2009
Bernard who goes by Barney has just completed a sculpture to be dedicated in the Tryon Depot Park by the Tryon Garden Club on April 16. I had the chance to meet and visit with Barney and his wife Linda over ice cream at Simple Simon&squo;s. Your sculpture is the train piece that&squo;s hiding under the tarp up there? Barney: Right. I went up and peeked at it, but it&squo;s a little hard to see right now because it&squo;s hiding under the tarp. Was it specifically created for the Depot? Barney: This was something done for the Tryon Garden Club. Linda: They run the Depot Garden and they were looking for a sculpture I guess for a couple years. Barney: At a reasonable cost. Linda: They had a specific place they wanted a sculpture with a railroad theme. Barney: So they were looking around, and wanted something reasonable. They didn&squo;t want to spend a lot of money. Word got out. Because Linda belongs to the Tryon Garden Club she came back and said, &dquo;You know they&squo;re looking for a sculpture for the Depot.&dquo; I said, &dquo;I&squo;d be glad to talk to them. It would be a great opportunity.&dquo; We did, and we got together and I came up with a sketch of what I wanted it to look like. The theme is &dquo;Bringing the World to the Foothills.&dquo; The railroad, that&squo;s what it did. We took Anna Beth Connery&squo;s class. That was over at Isothermal? Barney: Yes. She told us the history of the area, how much influence the railroad had on this area, and how fortunate it was that the railroad came through here for this area. We wanted to commemorate that occasion. So, you&squo;re not from Tryon originally? Barney: We moved here about a year and a half ago from the Chicago suburbs. How did you find Tryon from the Chicago suburbs? Barney: We were in Wisconsin and our next door neighbors retired and moved down to Tryon and invited us here 35 or 40 years ago. Linda: They were a whole generation older. Barney: We fell in love with Tryon then, but couldn&squo;t retire. Then when retirement came up we decided we wanted to move here. You already had the plan. In Chicago were you building sculptures? What was your main focus there? Barney: Mainly just making a living and working and then I semi-retired in the last couple of years we were up there and I started taking welding courses to refresh myself. I learned how to weld and work with metal when I was a teenager. I learned from my father. I&squo;ve been working with metal all my life welding and so on, but not to the degree I wanted to because I couldn&squo;t. I knew I wanted to do that after I retired. That&squo;s what led to this. Was this your first planned creative project? Barney: I&squo;ve done some other projects, but this is the largest one I&squo;ve ever done. Linda: He had done a couple things so that I knew that I would feel comfortable saying my husband can do it if he sets his mind to it. It&squo;s beautiful with a lot of thought going into it. Barney: I was fortunate to have the Garden Club trust me enough to commission me to do this. I told them I would charge no labor, but just materials and supplies. So that&squo;s what I&squo;ve done. That&squo;s a bargain. Barney: It&squo;s a bargain for them and it is fun for me. Looking at this drawing, did you do something with engineering in your previous work? Barney: No, but I&squo;ve always been interested in it, observed structures, and how loads are distributed on bridges and other structures. Your interest has been in that area even though your vocation did not necessarily use those skills. Barney: Right. I had that influence and I started studying sculptures. People influenced me like David Smith and Jose de Rivera. They both influenced me quite a bit with their very creative styles. Local artists have been an influence and inspired me. When we go to an opening here at the Upstairs Gallery or something it&squo;s so humbling to see their work. They&squo;re so good. It&squo;s an inspiration. You came here all geared up and started breathing in all the art. Barney: Right. Bill Crowell up at Saluda Forge was also an influence on me. I took a forging class here at Tryon Arts & Crafts. I took welding courses back in Illinois to get up to speed. Then I bought my welder. I had started playing with it when I was in Illinois. Now that retired, I have time to do it. Linda: He started the welding courses when he was transitioning with part time retirement. This was a well planned transition, and Tryon is getting your first project? Barney: This is the first major piece since I&squo;ve retired. Well that&squo;s quite the splashy introduction to the community! Barney: Yes, jump in! Once you&squo;re committed you&squo;ve got to go ahead and hang in there. Once you got this all drawn out, how long did it take you to build this piece? Barney: Starting back in July, last summer, it&squo;s been about nine months. Linda: Now that it&squo;s delivered! Barney: I was working at least three days a week. It was a joy to get up and have that time to do it. In my dreams I would create things. Were there any challenges that you ran into that were unexpected? Barney Eiserloh installs sculpture in Depot Garden (photo submitted) Barney: Yeah, trying to get that feeling of flow into the work and how to support all this metal. I had to find the railroad rails to create this and figure out how to make the rest of the smaller ones. Gibbs Welding has been real help to me. They&squo;re in South Carolina, they have a lot of metal up there that I bought from them and they helped me find pieces of metal. Those are real rails for the first part? Barney: Yes, and then there&squo;s a diminished size as they go up so I made the smaller ones. It was a once step at a time challenge to make the piece flow and make it support it well and safe for people to touch. Linda: When he did the ball to symbolize the world, he went online to find out what was the actual tilt of the earth. Barney: I had it tilted at 23.5 degrees. Did you ever think, &dquo;Oh, what have I gotten myself into?&dquo; Barney: No, but it was hard. I had to bend these rails in the fork of a tree using a winch. It took a lot of patience. Linda: And the winch was not a woman. Not a wench, but a winch. Barney: It&squo;s been a joy for me to do it and I&squo;m just happy as can be to be able to donate it to the Tryon Garden Club. The dedication will be on April 16 at 4 p.m. and will we see more work from you appear after this? Barney: I hope so! Yes. I want to work with Tryon Painters & Sculptors at TFAC. But, since this one took you nine months are you considering some smaller work? Barney: Yes. I&squo;d rather do some smaller work. Linda: This felt like it took up our whole garage. Barney: It did, it took our whole garage. Linda: He kept going back and re-measuring the diamond shaped area&ellip; Barney: &ellip;where it fits, to make sure it would fit. Linda: All the people who came by the house and looked at it said, &dquo;How is that going to fit into this little place?&dquo; But, it&squo;s perfect. Barney: It was a privilege and a lot of fun. Do you think you&squo;ll ever make a bigger one? Barney: I might be inspired to do that. You never know. Do you have another project you&squo;re working on right now? Barney: There are a lot of things I have in mind to do. I want to work with nature&squo;s gifts to show and emphasize wind and sunlight in a piece that would actually revolve. I&squo;m looking at prisms right now to see how the refraction of light will cast a rainbow onto the piece. What I&squo;d like to do is incorporate stained glass with the steel craft. I took two stained glass classes over at Tryon Arts & Crafts also. Those people are great over there. That&squo;s a wonderful medium for color and beauty. Are there specific instructors you would recommend to others? Barney:
Cheryl Stippich, Dianna, and the other people over there are just so gracious to welcome people in and show them skills they never had before. It&squo;s a wonderful opportunity for adults to learn new skills. They make the arts community accessible to new comers to the area. Barney: A lot of people are artistic and just don&squo;t know it, or don&squo;t know their medium. Practically all people have artistic tendencies, but they just don&squo;t know how to express them. It looks like you&squo;ve found at least one piece of your medium. Barney: Once you get started on a project, it&squo;s like a good book, you can&squo;t put it down. You have to work on it until you&squo;re done. Linda knew where to find me. Linda: His attachment to perfection was amazing to me to watch how much time he was willing to put in, because he wanted to get it just right. He also had concern for safety of any children who might play on or around it, and secured it all together so it won&squo;t collapse. Barney: I&squo;ve jumped on it. Linda: I wish I&squo;d gotten a picture of that. He had knee surgery. He was given a brace to go around his knee and told to wear it for two days. The day after I heard him welding in the garage and came out and told him, &dquo;You&squo;ve got to wear your brace!&dquo; I came out a couple hours later when I heard him welding again, and he was lying stomach down on three chairs with his welding mask on and the brace on his leg still working. That shows his perfectionism and drive. Barney: It&squo;s such a privilege to be retired and enjoy this place. Join the Tryon Garden Club at 4 p.m. Thursday, April 16 for the official unveiling and dedication of the sculpture celebrating the history of the trains combined with the creative spirit of the area that continues to bring the world to Tryon.