When Hurricane Fran blew through North Carolina in 1994, it punched a hole in Thomas Graham’s roof. The damage was minor compared to the surrounding devastation, and not likely to attract a professional roofer for a while, so Thomas decided to make the repairs himself. Up until that time, cutting and bending sheet metal had never caught the imagination of Dr. Graham, who spent his professional life as a psychiatrist working in community mental health. (Thanks for your service!) But once the roof repair was done, he became fascinated with the leftover metal scraps. Over time he learned about tools and techniques from books, workshops, and practice. He didn’t really think of himself as an artist as he fashioned tiny metal UFOs suitable for holiday decorations, or even when his hand-crafted watering can won a ribbon at the NC State Fair. Artistic inspiration came from Bobby Hansson, author of the book "The Fine Art of the Tin Can", who gave him the idea of making tin can collages. Now he is obviously an artist.
Thomas has always loved the painted tin containers that we use for cookies, tobacco, tea, or spices. Now they are found in neat piles in this workshop, where he cuts and flattens them into his art materials. Starting with a sketch, he plans the shapes and colors that he will need, and exactly which part of which cans will be used. The colors in the collage will be the original colors from the cans. After the project is planned out, he spends hours cutting tiny pieces of metal to make the smallest details of the scene he is creating. The tiny pieces are held together temporarily with masking tape, then each piece is fitted and nailed to a wooden board. The finished project is often a bird, or a landscape containing birds, rendered with both accuracy and affection. Now retired, Thomas has more time to devote to his tin can creations which are beginning to find their way into art shows and shops. Having benefitted from various community workshops, he is now being called upon to lead them. He and his wife are enjoying life in a quiet corner of Alamance County, NC.