Walking through the parking lot of Celestial Iron Works, 619 N. Second St., evokes the feeling of being in some sort of wonderland where giant metal arrows pierce the earth, and mammoth, brightly colored flowers tower over visitors at the eclectic store.
The outdoor gravel gallery is bursting with oversized metal creations that welders and artists have designed. Celestial Iron Works is like many stores that have burst onto the retail scene, completely dedicated to providing art and inspiration for the yard.
Missy McCoy, a retail clerk at Celestial Iron Works, hopes the trend of art in the yard continues.
"It seems to be getting more and more popular all the time," McCoy said. "Our business is growing by leaps and bounds. The owner, Kelvin Schartz, goes out and participates in art fairs and shows. The phone rings off the hook from folks all over the country wanting items they have seen or custom-made pieces that they have thought up."
Gardeners and homeowners are turning to art to enhance the landscapes and hardscapes to create an oasis in their yards. A nice sculpture can convey homeowners' personality if they lack a green thumb. An original piece of artwork will not die. It provides a lasting structure to capture some visual interest.
Brad Kemp, a Lawrence resident, has incorporated fabulous art pieces throughout his East Lawrence outdoor space, which he feels are as essential as the plants and grass.
"I would no sooner not have art in my garden than in my home," he said. "It is an extension of the house. It brings together the idea of mixing the inside with the outside.
"It also gives you the freedom to play on a much larger scale when working with art in your yard rather than in the house."
A David Van Hee mask adorns one side of Kemp's house. The back yard features a two-dimensional piece depicting snakes intertwined. A large cube made at Celestial Iron Works balances on one point in the front yard. Two large concrete spheres have been worked into the landscape.
"For this garden, I am attracted to highly simplified forms, often of geometric principal," he said. "The cube fits the house perfectly and that drew me to it. Really it is just a gut feeling."
What constitutes art? Clipping a hedge or topiary into a shape or scene is a living piece of artwork. Painting a mural or creating a mosaic on the side of an ugly garage or unattractive wall would be a way to infuse art in the yard. A gardener might consider painting a dead tree a bright primary color instead of digging it up and throwing it out. A person might find an old fence or some interesting architectural salvage pieces and use them as a trellis or border. Even when a clay pot breaks, the shards can be used throughout the yard to give the feel of an archeological dig. The possibilities are endless when it comes to creative expression.
"Start with no preconceptions, but just shop around," Kemp said of homeowners' pursuit of yard art. "Look to other houses and see what pieces and styles of artwork speak to you."
Whether a homeowner chooses to buy a piece of artwork from a local artisan or opts to create their own, art in the yard is a wonderful way to make the outdoor space more exciting.