Sculpted elephant shows tradesman’s artistic flair

The circus is coming to Camano Island.

Well, not the whole ring and tent, just a fanciful retired elephant.

James R. Shields III, who grew up on the island, fabricated the pachyderm at Everett Community College.

She’s a beauty — in metal.

“Elly started with a three-way, 4-inch pipe fitting that looked like the beginnings of a trunk, and grew into a partial head when the body showed up,” Shields said.

The body is a working air compressor tank from the 1940s that was bound for the college scrap pile.

From there, pipe fittings made the legs, thanks, Shields said, to Rick Brydges, who teaches pipefitting. Fittings were also welded to make the legs and trunk.

The spine and tail are fashioned from rebar.

“I got to use 350 pounds of scrap welding wire, and spent more than 200 hours, to make Elly,” he said. “She will be on display at Freedom Park at Terry’s Corner on Camano Island.”

Elly has bright eyes, tusks and a trumpeting trunk on a wrinkled body that truly looks like elephant hide.

Children can climb aboard when they go on safari.

Shields is the son of Betsy and Jim Shields, who live at Maple Grove. The Eagle Scout went to Stanwood High School. He received a degree in anthropology and a minor in communications at Western Washington University in Bellingham.

He found his heart by working with his hands. James Shields hopes to graduate in the spring with degrees in welding and fabrication and advanced manufacturing.

“I learned to weld from Darryl Main at Stanwood High School,” Shields said. “There is a deficit of welders and other trade jobs. As people focus on education, the world must still be built and repaired.”

Main, a career and technical education instructor, agrees that the world needs more workers in the trades.

“The industry and trades are crying for qualified people to do skills such as electricians, mechanics, welders, fabricators and engineers,” Main said. “The reason we need to teach welding is we need to let kids see a different aspect of life.”

He said Shields was a class leader, a very social kid who could make anyone laugh. Shields applied himself when learning about welding, wiring and small gas engines.

“If he wanted to do or learn something, he was going to do it,” Main said. “Nothing was out of his grasp.”

Main said a student who goes on to work a trade may make upward of $30 an hour with fine benefits.

“It’s a good living,” Main said.

Welders are needed to build boats, high-rises, pots and pans, a kitchen table leg, attach a tongue on a trailer or fashion the body of a truck. Welding is one of those things used in everything we do, he said.

Main and Shields both complimented the welding program at Everett Community College. Shields said he appreciates the work of instructors Dan Minzel and Dave Taylor.

“Elly could not have happened if not for the awesome program,” Shields said. “It is one of the only community colleges in the state with a fabrication program.”

Sometime in the next few weeks, Shields will head to Freedom Park with a forklift, a truck and his work of art.

“I’ll be setting Elly free,” he said.

Kristi O’Harran: 425-339-3451,

Talk to us

> Give us your news tips.

> Send us a letter to the editor.

> More Herald contact information.

More in Local News

People look out onto Mountain Loop Mine from the second floor hallway of Fairmount Elementary on Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2024 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Mining company ordered to stop work next to school south of Everett

After operating months without the right paperwork, OMA Construction applied for permits last week. The county found it still violates code.

Snohomish County Jail. (Sue Misao / Herald file)
Arlington woman arrested in 2005 case of killed baby in Arizona airport

Annie Sue Anderson, 51, has been held in the Snohomish County Jail since December. She’s facing extradition.

A Cessna 150 crashed north of Paine Field on Friday evening, Feb. 16, 2024, in Mukilteo, Washington. The pilot survived without serious injury. (Courtesy of Richard Newman.)
‘I’m stuck in the trees’: 911 call recounts plane crash near Paine Field

Asad Ali was coming in for a landing in a Cessna 150 when he crashed into woods south of Mukilteo. Then he called 911 — for 48 minutes.

The Nimbus Apartments are pictured on Wednesday, March 1, 2023, in downtown Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Snohomish County has the highest rent in the state. Could this bill help?

In one year, rent for the average two-bedroom apartment in Snohomish County went up 20%. A bill seeks to cap any increases at 7%.

A child gets some assistance dancing during Narrow Tarot’s set on the opening night of Fisherman’s Village on Thursday, May 18, 2023, at Lucky Dime in downtown Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Drive-By Truckers, Allen Stone headline 2024 Fisherman’s Village lineup

Big names and local legends alike are coming to downtown Everett for the music festival from May 16 to 18.

Sen. Patty Murray attends a meeting at the Everett Fire Department’s Station 1 on Thursday, Feb. 22, 2024, in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Sen. Murray seeks aid for Snohomish County’s fentanyl, child care crises

The U.S. senator visited Everett to talk with local leaders on Thursday, making stops at the YMCA and a roundtable with the mayor.

Anthony Boggess
Arlington man sentenced for killing roommate who offered shelter

Anthony Boggess, 33, reported hearing the voices of “demons” the night he strangled James Thrower, 65.

Lake Serene in Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest. (U.S. Forest Service)
How will climate change affect you? New tool gives an educated guess

The Climate Vulnerability Tool outlines climate hazards in Snohomish County — and it may help direct resources.

A cliff above the Pilchuck River shows signs of erosion Friday, Feb. 9, 2024, in Lake Stevens, Washington. Lake Connor Park sits atop the cliff. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Hill erodes in Lake Connor Park, forcing residents of 8 lots to vacate

The park has just under 1,500 members east of Lake Stevens. The riverside hill usually loses 18 inches a year. But it was more this year.

Ken Florczak, president of the five-member board at Sherwood Village Mobile Home community on Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2024 in Mill Creek, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
How Mill Creek mobile home residents bought the land under their feet

At Sherwood Village, residents are now homeowners. They pay a bit more each month to keep developers from buying their property.

The I-5, Highway 529 and the BNSF railroad bridges cross over Union Slough as the main roadways for north and southbound traffic between Everett and Marysville. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
As 4-month closure looms, Highway 529 bridge to briefly close Sunday

The northbound section of the Snohomish River Bridge will be closed 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. The monthslong closure is slated for mid-May.

Ninth-grade program gets money, initiatives to get hearings

It’s day 47, here is what’s happening in the Legislature.

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.