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Charlie "Tin Man" Lucas

The Self Taught Creations of Charlie Lucas

by Jantje Blokhuis-Mulder

His father was a chauffeur and auto mechanic in Jefferson County, Alabama when Charlie was born. Charlie showed a natural ability with mechanical parts. He learned at an early age how to take an engine apart and put it back together.

His grandfather Melvin was a gunsmith and chair caner and his grandmother was a weaver. His great grandfather Cane was a blacksmith. Small wonder then, coming from this background, that Charlie became a sculptor.

 

Charlie Lucas was one of fourteen children. He was a creative child. Instead of playing with his brothers and sisters, he would often be off on his own building toys out of odds and ends. Charlie still refers to his creations today as toys.

By the time he was fourteen, he was working and traveling from town to town with a bucket and a paintbrush. This way he could support himself. Knocking on doors he would ask for jobs and there was always something to paint.

After some years on the road Charlie longed to see and be closer to his childhood friend and sweetheart Annie Lykes. He had promised her that he would come for her as soon as he was to provide a home for them. Working hard together Charlie and Annie settled in Autauga County and through the years raised six children.

It was not until Charlie suffered a severe back injury, one that had him in bed for nearly a year, that the inspiration to work with metal came to him. Desperate, with only ten dollars in his pocket and a family to care for, he asked God for help. He wanted to do something that no one else was doing.

His plea was answered. Charlie knew that he was not finished. Like the scrap in a junkyard, he could pull himself up. His inspiration gave him the courage. He could make great sculptures out of the scrap metal that others regarded as useless.

From the scrap yards and dumps he took old discarded metal items and turned them into something new. After a while it became a way of life, a calling, to show the world that everything new and shiny is not the natural order of things.

Charlie wanted his sculptures to show that life has its ugly moments. Not unlike his own life, when you have hit the bottom, you can look up. You can take the scrap from the bottom of the heap and breathe new life into it.

Looking at the fascinating creations on his yard, you can only conclude that there are a number of generations living in Charlie Lucas. From his great grandfather the blacksmith to his grandfather the caner and finally his father the mechanic, all the experience of the generations have flowed into this one man, this creative folk artist known as Charlie "Tin Man" Lucas.

If you are ever in the vicinity of Prattville, Alabama you must take the time to visit the Tin Man's home. At the end of his driveway, the mailbox is held in place by a scrap metal man.

Going further you are immediately surrounded by large metal sculptures of enormous birds and prehistoric dinosaurs there is even a large rusty hand made airplane. As far as you can see there is a sea of metal formed, shaped and welded into a fascinating environment. You will not be disappointed. Way to go Charlie Lucas.

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Text © Jantje Blokhuis-Mulder; Photos Reprinted with Permission

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