Canadian sculptor Kevin Stone’s metal sculptures tend to be large in scale and ambition, attracting attention from people everywhere. One example is a “Game of Thrones” dragon he is currently working on. Images: Kevin Stone
It all started with a gargoyle.
In 2003, Kevin Stone built his first metal sculpture, a 6-ft.-tall gargoyle. It was the first project shifting Stone’s trajectory away from commercial stainless steel fabrication.
“I left the ferry industry and got into commercial stainless. I was doing food and dairy equipment and breweries and mostly sanitary stainless fabrication,” said the Chilliwack, B.C. sculptor. “Through one of the companies I was doing my stainless work with, they asked me to build a sculpture. I started my first sculpture using just scrap around the shop.”
In the two decades since, Stone, 53, has improved upon his skills and built several metal sculptures, with each one challenging size, scope, and ambition. Take, for example, three current sculptures either recently completed or in the works:
- A 55-ft.-long Tyrannosaurus rex
- A 55-ft.-long “Game of Thrones” dragon
- A 6-ft.-tall aluminum bust of billionaire Elon Musk
The Musk bust is completed, while the T. rex and dragon sculptures will be ready later this year or in 2023.
Much of his work happens at his 4,000-sq.-ft. shop in British Columbia, where he likes to work with Miller Electric welding machines, KMS Tools products, Baileigh Industrial power hammers, English wheels, metal shrinker stretchers, and planishing hammers.
The WELDER spoke with Stone about his recent projects, stainless steel, and influences.
TW: How big are some of these sculptures of yours?
KS: An older coiling dragon, head to tail, was 85 ft., made in mirror-polished stainless steel. He was 14 ft. wide with the coils; 14 ft. tall; and coiled, he stood just under 40 ft. long. That dragon weighed about 9,000 lbs.
A big eagle I built at the same time was a 40-ft. stainless steel [project]. The eagle weighed about 5,000 lbs.
Canadian Kevin Stone takes an old-school approach to making his metal sculptures come to life, whether they be large dragons, dinosaurs, or well-known public figures like Twitter and Tesla CEO Elon Musk.
Of the new pieces here, the “Game of Thrones” dragon is 55 ft. long from head to tail. Its wings are folded, but if its wings were unfolded it would be over 90 ft. It also shoots fire as well. I have a propane puffer system that I control with remote control and a small remote-controlled computer to actuate all the valves inside. It can shoot about a 12-ft. ball of fire about 20 ft. from his mouth. It’s a pretty cool fire system. The wingspan, folded, is about 40 ft. wide. His head is only about 8 ft. off the ground, but his tail goes up 35 ft. in the air.
The T. rex is 55 ft. long and weighs about 17,000 lbs. in mirror-polished stainless steel. The dragon is made of steel but has been heat treated and colored with heat. The coloring is done with a torch, so it has lots of different dark colors and a little bit of rainbow colors because of the torching.
TW: How did this Elon Musk bust project come to life?
KS: I just did a big 6-ft. bust of Elon Musk’s face and head. I did his whole head from a computer rendering. I was asked to do a project for a cryptocurrency company.
(Editor’s note: The 6-ft. bust is one part of a 12,000-lb. sculpture called “Goatsgiving” commissioned by a group of cryptocurrency enthusiasts call Elon Goat Token. The massive sculpture was delivered to Tesla’s headquarters in Austin, Texas, on Nov. 26.)
[The crypto company] hired someone to design them a crazy-looking sculpture for marketing. They wanted Elon’s head on a goat that’s riding a rocket to Mars. They wanted to use it to market their cryptocurrency. At the end of their marketing, they want to drive it around and show it off. And they eventually want to take it to Elon and give it to him.
They initially wanted me to do the whole thing—the head, the goat, the rocket, the whole works. I gave them a price and how long it would take. It was quite a big price—we’re talking about a million-dollar sculpture.
I get a lot of these inquiries. When they start seeing the figures, they begin to realize how expensive these projects are. When projects take more than a year, they tend to be pretty pricey.
But these guys really loved my work. It was such a weird project that initially my wife Michelle and I thought it was Elon commissioning it.
Because they were in kind of a rush to get this done, they were hoping to get this done in three to four months. I told them it was completely unrealistic given the amount of work.
Kevin Stone has been in the trades for about 30 years. Along with metal arts, he has worked in the ferry and commercial stainless steel industries and on hot rods.
But they still wanted me to build the head because they felt I had the skills to accomplish what they needed. It was kind of a crazy fun project to be a part of. This head was hand fabricated in aluminum; I usually work in steel and stainless.
TW: How did this “Game of Thrones” dragon originate?
KS: I got asked, “I want one of these eagles. Can you make me one?” And I said, “Sure.” He goes, “I want it this big, I want it in my roundabout.” When we got to talking, I told him, “I can build you anything you want.” He thought about it, then got back to me. “Can you build a big dragon? Like a big ‘Game of Thrones’ dragon?” And so, that’s where the “Game of Thrones” dragon idea came from.
I was posting about that dragon on social media. Then a rich entrepreneur in Miami saw a dragon of mine on Instagram. He called me saying, “I want to buy your dragon.” I told him, “Well, it’s actually a commission and it’s not for sale. However, I have a big falcon I’ve been sitting on. You could buy that if you want.”
So, I sent him pictures of the falcon I had built, and he loved it. We negotiated a price, and he purchased my falcon and made arrangements to have it shipped out to his gallery in Miami. He has an amazing gallery. It was really an awesome opportunity for me to have my sculpture in an amazing gallery for an amazing client.
TW: And the T. rex sculpture?
KS: Someone contacted me about it. “Hey, I saw the falcon you built. It’s fantastic. Could you build me a giant T. rex? Since I was a kid, I’ve always wanted a life-size chrome T. rex.” One thing led to another and now I’m more than two-thirds of the way to finishing it. I’m building a 55-ft., mirror-polished stainless T. rex for this fella.
He ended up having a winter or summer home here in B.C. He has a property by a lake, so that’s where the T. rex will be going. It’s only about 300 miles from where I am.
TW: How long does it take to do these projects?
KS: The “Game of Thrones” dragon, I worked on it for a year solid. And then it was in limbo for eight to 10 months. I did a little bit here and there to have some progress going. But now we’re just finishing it up. The total time it took to build that dragon was about 16 to 18 months.
Stone fabricated a 6-ft.-tall aluminum bust of billionaire Elon Musk’s head and face for a cryptocurrency company.
And we’re about the same on the T. rex right now. It was commissioned as a 20-month project, so the T. rex was initially not to exceed 20 months’ time. We’re about 16 months into it and about one to two months to completing it. We should be under budget and on time with the T. rex.
TW: Why is it that so many of your projects are animals and creatures?
KS: It’s what people want. I’ll build anything, from an Elon Musk face to dragon to a bird to an abstract sculpture. I think I’m capable of meeting any challenge. I like to be challenged. It seems the more difficult the sculpture is, the more interested I am in making it.
TW: What is it about stainless steel that it’s become your go-to for most of your sculptures?
KS: Obviously, the beauty of it. It looks like chrome when it’s finished, especially a polished stainless steel piece. My initial idea when building all these sculptures was to have them in casinos and big, outdoor commercial spaces where they could have water fountains. I envisioned these sculptures to be on display in water and where they wouldn’t rust and last forever.
The other thing is scale. I’m trying to build on a scale that is larger than anyone else’s. Make those monumental outdoor pieces that garner people’s attention and become a focal point. I wanted to do larger than life stainless steel pieces that are beautiful and have them as landmark pieces in the outdoors.
TW: What’s something that might surprise people about your work?
KS: A lot of people ask if these are all designed on computers. No, it’s all coming out of my head. I just look at pictures and I design the engineering aspect of it; the structural strength of it based on my experiences. My experience in the trade has given me an in-depth knowledge of how to engineer things.
When people ask me if I have a computer table or plasma table or something to for cutting, I say, “No, everything is cut uniquely by hand.” I think that is what makes my work unique.
I recommend anyone interested in getting in the metal arts to get into the metal shaping aspect of the auto industry; learn how to make panels and beat panels into shape and things like that. That’s life-changing knowledge when you learn how to shape metal.
Stone’s first sculpture was a gargoyle, pictured on the left. Also pictured is a 14-ft. polished stainless steel eagle that was made for a doctor in B.C.
Also, learn how to draw. Drawing not only teaches you how to look at things and draw the lines and figure out what you’re going to build, it also helps you visualize 3D shapes. It’s going to help with your vision of shaping metal and figuring out the complicated pieces.
TW: What other projects do you have in the works?
KS: I’m doing an 18-ft. eagle for the American Eagle Foundation in Tennessee. The American Eagle Foundation used to have their facility and rescue habitat out of Dollywood and they had rescue eagles down there. They’re opening up their new facility down there in Tennessee and they’re building a new hospital and habitat and visitors center. They reached out and asked if I could do a big eagle for the front of the visitors center.
That eagle is really neat, actually. The eagle they want me to recreate is one called Challenger, a rescue who is now 29 years old. Challenger was the first eagle ever trained to fly inside stadiums when they sing the national anthem. I’m building this sculpture in dedication of Challenger and hopefully it is an everlasting memorial.
He had to be engineered and be built strong enough. I’m actually starting the structural frame right now and my wife is getting ready to paper template the body. I make all the body pieces using paper. I template all the pieces I need to make. And then make them out of steel and weld them on.
After that I’ll be doing a big abstract sculpture called “Pearl of the Ocean.” It will be a 25-ft.-tall stainless steel abstract, kind of a figure-eight-looking shape that has a ball mounted to one of the spikes. There’s two arms that snake each other at the top. One of them has a 48-in. steel ball that’s been painted, done with an automotive paint that is chameleon. It’s meant to represent a pearl.
It’s being built for a huge home in Cabo, Mexico. This business owner from B.C. has a home there and he wanted a sculpture to represent his home because his house is called “The Pearl of the Ocean.”
This is a great opportunity to show that I don’t just do animals and more realistic types of pieces.
Post time: May-18-2023