The former Gaston Feed parking lot holds a public-art sculpture that will spread 2,220 square feet across the ground when it's installed in a Tacoma park at the end of the month.
Right now, however, it's just hundreds of metal pieces waiting for a metal magician named Brady Sheets to wave his welding wand and put them all together.
Metal art is just one thing Sheets brings to town now that he's hung his Western Iron Works sign in downtown Gaston.
"No project is too big or too small," Sheets said. "I'm not afraid to take anything on."
His business offers welding supplies, including racks of bulk steel. And Sheets handles industrial projects as well as all kinds of metal emergencies, from fixing a broken tractor step to repairing machines, latches or gates and more. He also creates business signs (like the new one on the Scoggins Creek Coffee stand) and door entrance designs, as well as metal art that can hang on a wall.
Even before the store's September grand opening, Sheets is loaded up with work, partly because he's trying to finish the Tacoma sculpture, as well as another public sculpture commissioned by a San Francisco customer who prefers to remain confidential until its installation next month.
At just 25 years old, Sheets — who also worked on a piece of Portland's Sellwood Bridge design — is already becoming a sought-after metal artist.
He has also been cleaning the Gaston lot and remodeling the building, working 12- to 14-hour days trying to get the place ready for his grand opening.
But even if he weren't a friendly young entrepreneur who'll happily stop sculpting to mend a hand railing or make a bar stool, many Gaston residents would like him just because he isn't growing marijuana.
During his "soft opening" on Wapato Showdown weekend, many local residents told him they're "just so glad it's not a pot shop."
Last year, Leonard Jones planned to lease the site and start an indoor-grow marijuana operation. Gaston voters narrowly quashed that plan, however, with a 140-132 vote banning all marijuana-related businesses within the city limits.
Sheets racked up more local brownie points when he assisted in a serious traffic crash involving a convertible stuck underneath a tractor on Highway 47 right outside his door last month.
Sheets was working in his shop when he heard an explosion — likely when all four of the car's tires popped at once — and ended up using his forklift to help stabilize the tractor as emergency responders took over.
Sheets has always loved two things: Art and working with his hands. As a child, he spent hours drawing and making things. Around age 14, his grandfather showed him the basics of metal fabricating.
After taking a few metal shop classes at Glencoe High School, Sheets concluded traditional high school wasn't for him even though he earned good grades. He decided to pursue his passion for welding and enrolled in Job Corps, a U.S. Department of Labor program that provides education and vocational training to young men and women aged 16 to 24.
Sheets completed the welding program quickly and was soon teaching some of the classes. He's been in the workforce for nearly a decade.
After almost 10 years working as a full-time machinist in Hillsboro and welding on the side, Sheets bought a home in Yamhill to be closer to his brothers, Brier and Brandan, and parents Steve and Angel Sheets, who all live in Gaston. It was there he saw the vacant Gaston Feed building and knew what he had to do next.
"It's the perfect location and I thought I could add something to the town," Sheets said. "I'm finally fulfilling my dream of welding full-time."
By Stephanie Haugen
Reporter, Forest Grove News-Times
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