When Daniel Miner loads his SUV to take his artwork to the City Market, some of it weighs more than 160 pounds.
By the time he loads and unloads, he’s already had a good workout.
It’s a new way to make a living. The former auto technician no longer spends his time with his head under the hood. These days, Miner, 38, is in business for himself.
What does he sell? Hand-crafted, recycled metal art. In some cases, the very engine parts he once installed in cars, he now molds into various shapes and sells at his stall.
Miner spent 20 years working on Volkswagens, BMWs and Hondas at various auto repair shops. But almost a year ago, his wife, Angela, told him, “I trust you ... do it.”
So he gave a month’s notice and became his own boss.
That freedom also fostered uncertainty. But as strong as the steel he shapes in the workshop of his one-car garage, he remains just as resolute as he approaches the one-year anniversary of that decision.
Miner’s most valuable tool is his plasma cutter. In his steady hand, the air pressure carries 30,000 degrees of heat that allows him to deftly create shapes from steel. He’s fond of marine and nautical objects, so many of his creations fall into that vast ocean of subject matter.
We’re talking shrimp, swordfish, sea horse and lobster.
What once might have been an automobile transmission part is transformed into a crab. Ball bearings become the crab’s eyeballs. In another corner, an alternator takes the shape of a turtle shell. The size and scope of the work is impressive.
These once were greasy, industrial parts manufactured for one purpose. Now, they’re works of art he wants people to display on their walls, porches or patios.
One day a week, he designates for fabricating, drawing, cutting, chipping and grinding. It’s a tough balancing act trying to figure out how much time to devote to making the product versus selling it. How much inventory is on hand and how much is needed?
He also tries to spend another day looking for material. Visits to salvage yards or recycling centers are necessary. He only wants parts that have already been used.
One day, maybe he’ll have one or two other employees, but right now it’s all him.
On Friday and Saturday, he sells from his spot in the market alongside many other local entrepreneurs. Other days, he’ll secure a spot at Mount Pleasant Farmers Market and participate in various craft shows in Myrtle Beach and Beaufort.
Peddle to the metal
Of all the items he’s created, the one that seems to draw the most attention is, of all things, the trailer hitch.
It’s durable, original and is capped off with the owner’s favorite sports team. He’s tapped into something here.
Miner, however, does not own a trailer. He might, soon, if he sells a few more hitches.
His pieces sell from $20 all the way up to $625. The objects priced from $40-$60 seem to move the most.
The variety of items that he’s created runs the spectrum. There are crosses for baptism and special occasions. In addition, there’s a lizard, an oyster knife, a butterfly and a bullfrog.
Tourists always ask if he’ll ship something to them. Especially after they feel the weight. He sent a 30-pound planter to New Jersey and a gecko to California. He’s also delivered different pieces to nearby hotels.
Most visitors don’t want to carry a 20-pound metal shrimp up and down King Street.
For Miner, his work is built to last. Hopefully, this idea forged of heat, metal and imagination succeeds for the same reason.
Reach Warren Peper at email@example.com.
Miner created a crab cut out of a used fire extinguisher canister.×
This sculpture was made from a large oxygen tank.×