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, oharran@heraldnet.com.

Talk to us

More in Local News

People wait in line for amusement park tickets during opening day of the Evergreen State Fair on Thursday, Aug. 26, 2021 in Monroe, Wash. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
At limited capacity, Evergreen State Fair draws 181,000

Organizers say this year’s visitors enjoyed experiencing the fair with “a little more shoulder room.”

In 2023, the Department of Transportation will widen a two-mile stretch of Highway 531 from 43rd Avenue NE to 67th Avenue NE. (WSDOT)
Smokey Point road improvements won’t be done before industrial center

Amazon, NorthPoint are coming but the state will not begin widening Highway 531 until 2023.

Construction continues at the site of the former Kmart for 400 apartments. and is slated for completion in 2023. Photo on September 14, 2021. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
Coming soon to Everett, 430 apartments at former Kmart site

DevCo, Inc. is building six-story apartments “for the workforce” on Evergreen Way, near Boeing Freeway.

Federal vax rules apply to half of Snohomish County workers

The Labor Department hasn’t issued guidance yet, but here’s what we know so far.

Police: Mill Creek man, 63, accidentally shot by son

Detectives believe the dad was mistaken as an intruder. The injuries are not life threatening.

Man found dead in homeless camp Friday in Mountlake Terrace

His identity and cause of death are pending.

Family identifies Marysville woman found dead at Stevens Pass

Officials are investigating the death, which they called a homicide.

Marilla Sargent presents Amit Singh, Edmonds College president, a check supporting the Project Home Association at Edmonds College. (Edmonds College)
HomeStreet Bank gives $5,000 for Edmonds College students facing homelessness

HomeStreet Bank donated $5,000 to Edmonds College’s Project Home Association, which provides… Continue reading

South Whidbey public records advocate blasts cities’ responses

Eric Hood has collected about $1 million in Public Records Act lawsuits.

Most Read