When Anthony Holand answered an ad for an apprentice metal sculptor in the Vineyard Gazette 17 years ago, he had no idea that it would lead to a career. At the time he was 22 years old and had recently graduated with a business degree from Columbia Basin College. He was looking for the “real job” his mother wanted for him, but he stumbled upon a job that would turn out to be far more fulfilling.
In the summer of 1997, Mr. Holand began working with Travis Tuck, an Island artisan renowned for his weathervanes. In Mr. Tuck’s Vineyard Haven studio, Mr. Holand found himself at peace, doing work he was truly passionate about. He had wanted to be a sculptor since his late teens.
For five years, Mr. Holand worked alongside Mr. Tuck as the master crafted iconic weathervanes that adorn the roofs of many Vineyard homes and buildings, and many off-Island sites, too. In 2002 Mr. Holand became a partner in the business, shortly before Mr. Tuck passed away. Since then Mr. Holand has continued to honor his legacy, spending each day working with nonferrous metals — brass, bronze and, primarily, copper.
Recently, Mr. Holand has begun to venture into work beyond weathervanes. Two weeks ago, he installed his first indoor mobile in a home belonging to the Crisman family. The Crismans are no strangers to Mr. Holand’s work. A weathervane of the family kayaking with the grandchildren standing on the cardinal points (north, south, east and west) sits atop their summer home. The weathervane currently resides in Mr. Holand’s shop as it awaits the addition of another grandchild. The family has recently expanded.
It was the Crismans who first approached Mr. Holand with the new idea of creating a mobile. They asked him if he had ever made one before.
“Yes, I think in third or fourth grade,” Mr. Holand told them. But he embraced the challenge eagerly, as he does most projects.
Mr. Holand met with three generations of the Crisman family — the parents, Ben and Virginia, their grown children and spouses, and the five grandchildren — and came up with a list of 13 objects to represent the family’s most treasured traditions on the Island. The family has been coming to the Vineyard since the 1980s. A ferry, a carousel horse, a lobster and a Mad Martha’s ice cream cone were among the items that made the final cut.
After researching the family’s favorite mobile artist, Alexander Calder, Mr. Holand came up with a design for the mobile’s layout.
“There was a lot of staring at the wall,” said Mr. Holand. But he has yet to be stumped, and this project was no exception.
“It was a wonderful new challenge in concept to come up with this balancing sculpture,” said Mr. Holand. “It’s nice to have somebody come in and want to do something completely different.”
In particular, Mr. Holand enjoyed the spatial and dimensional complexities that he encountered while learning how to make a functional mobile. Plus the design is quite large. The Crisman family mobile occupies a space of about 125 cubic feet, Mr. Holand said.
“You have to think about it in all spaces and also as the piece moves,” Mr. Holand said. “You have to figure out the joints and how everything fits and how far one piece will swing and not hit another piece. You have to think about it in a complete space, not just on a flat plane... Construction and weight and figuring out gravity and how it’s all relating to itself. You really need to think big picture with [mobiles], I’ve found.”
The Crismans saw the mobile hanging in their home for the first time in early July. It hangs over a staircase that spans three stories.
“It was pretty intense,” Ben Crisman said, regarding the experience of first encountering the mobile. The mobile’s touches of gold leaf twinkling in the light and the way its shadows dance on the wall in the afternoon hours moved Mr. Crisman in a way he had not anticipated.
“He captured what we hoped by way of tradition, but then he exceeded it when you saw the display of light through it, and where it hung and the reflection on the walls of the shadows and the gold leaf,” he said.
“We’d seen lots of pictures of pieces, but not in its place. It was quite a surprise and I think we were pretty touched in a very heartfelt way,” he added.
Since completing work on the Crisman mobile, Mr. Holand has already received a few inquiries about creating more hanging mobiles.
“I’m adding it to my list of possibilities,” he said, although his focus will still be on weathervanes.
The waiting list for one of Mr. Holand’s custom weathervanes is currently two years. Craftmanship of this caliber cannot be rushed.