From Play-Doh to sculpting metal: Finley grad designs for celebrities, CEOs

By Dori O'Neal, Tri-City HeraldDecember 3, 2012 

Anthony Holand grew up playing with Play-Doh and Legos at his grandparents' farm in Finley.

He turned that childhood fascination into a career on Martha's Vineyard as a renowned metal sculptor, creating pieces for some of the Massachusetts island's rich and famous residents.

Just how Holand, 36, transitioned from a Columbia Basin College art student to an sculptor near Cape Cod is ironic.

"A friend from college followed a girl there, then he talked me into coming back there for a summer to work," the River View High School graduate said. "I think it was around 1997. I found a job at a bike shop, then came home at the end of summer to finish up at CBC."

The following summer, he returned to Martha's Vineyard to work at the bike shop. But Holand ended up apprenticing with famed sculptor Travis Tuck, whose work was commissioned by Bill and Hillary Clinton and Steven Spielberg.

Holand said he immediately bonded with Tuck and praises the master sculptor for having shared his expertise. Tuck made Holand his business partner in 2002, forming Tuck & Holand Metal Sculptors, before dying of mesophelioma.

Since then, Holand has grown the client list of Hollywood celebrities and corporate CEOs. Not bad for the kid who started out playing with Play-Doh and Legos.

"I was always fascinated with sculpting and building things," he said. "From clay to Legos, it was great to bring those ideas to life."

Holand said he was a visual and hands-on youngster, so sculpting came naturally. His father, Gene Holand, wholeheartedly agrees.

"Tony always had a pencil in his hand or crayons or markers and would doodle or draw pictures all the time -- even on his bedroom walls," said Holand, an associate business professor at CBC. "I couldn't say anything because it was beautiful art, except 'Don't do that on the living room walls.' "

Holand credits CBC instructor Tom McClelland for introducing him to bronze casting.

"That's when I fell in love with metal sculpture," Holand said. "So when I had the opportunity to apprentice with Travis, it fell right in line. There, I developed my skills to the point where I could turn flat sheets of copper into a work of art with life and character -- all made by my hands."

Many of Holand's creations stem from ideas that come from his clients, but he continues to produce pieces, such as distinctive weathervanes, from his own ideas.

"My work is really about creating an heirloom because of the craftsmanship and quality, but there's also the personal nature of the concepts," he said.

Designing those concepts is a collaborative process, Holand added, because the client directly influences the design of the piece.

"For clients to see their vision come to life is rewarding, and for me to bring it to life is equally rewarding," Holand said. "I really get to know the people I create for, and that helps me add a few thoughtful surprises to the piece."

Some of those sculptures are on the wild side, even a bit eccentric, but he enjoys that aspect of art. His strangest sculpture was of a large pterodactyl clutching Raquel Welch in its talons, he said.

Tuck launched the studio in 1974 by creating for Spielberg the shark weathervane that sat atop Quint's shack in the film Jaws. In 1996, Spielberg commissioned Tuck to make a weathervane of a velociraptor, a piece inspired by his movie Jurassic Park.

What Holand loves most about sculpture, he said, are the control of the medium and the ability to walk around his art while working on it.

"I really like its changeability by being able to walk completely around the work, and it fascinates me when I can make metal do what I want," he said.

Holand said it takes about a month for him to complete a sculpture. His work sells from $15,000 to $20,000 each, and he's booked for three years, he said. He's also creating a coffee table book that will chronicle some of his clients and the weathervanes that focus on Martha's Vineyard.

"Most of the work that comes my way is from word of mouth, which keeps me pretty busy," Holand said. "But I'm one of those artists who sweats the small stuff, so it takes me a little longer to finish."

-- Dori O'Neal: 582-1514; doneal@tricityherald.com

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