Denny Croston says he just looks at things differently than other people.
Where others see old sprockets or rusted propane tanks, "I see body parts and flowers," he says.
Croston, a retired Issaquah general contractor, turns those visions into unique and whimsical yard art at his home studio. This year, his rustic visions turned to Puyallup Fair bronze, as he took home third place in the fair's sculpture competition for his piece "Poncho."
Croston, who didn't have a formal art education, says his good friend, Dan Klennert, who won both first and second place in the sculpture category, turned him on to the process in the 1990s.
"I loved his work. I was asking him how you learn what piece of junk makes a bird beak or whatever," Croston says.
Klennert creates large sculptural forms from old pieces of metal and, in the case of his two winning Puyallup Fair sculptures of a moose and a female Sasquatch, driftwood. Klennert also got a second place nod in the mixed media category.
"Dan's stuff is large and in charge," Croston says, and he utilizes an overhead boom at his studio in Elbe to move large pieces.
Klennert encouraged him to use music for inspiration and luckily for Croston, also encouraged him to enter some of his pieces in the Puyallup, Croston says.
Croston says he started out listening to instrumental music only, to keep it simple, but now he tends toward happy, upbeat Celtic music with female vocals.
"The music dumps all the garbage out of your head. It's the music and you, and you can focus," without thinking about kids, divorces, or other everyday creativity killers, he says.
Croston sells his sculptures at shows and by commission, including a large bouqet of flowers commissioned by Port Blakely in the Issaquah Highlands.
When he's not showing his own pieces, Croston is ever on the lookout for foil for his creations.
"I'm always on the hunt at scrap yards and swap meets--sometimes I come home and pieces are on the driveway," anonymous donations of sorts from people who know his work.
Though Croston sells his pieces, he says its really about enjoying his retirement.
"I can sell all I can make, but if it's too much work and stress and no fun, then I won't do it," Croston says.