The flame from the blow torch crackled loudly as he seared the saw blades together. Through the tinted lens of his mask, artist Ed (Zed) Combs, watched as fiery sparks flew from the metal. He continued infusing the nails and bolts together until they formed a bug like creature. Minutes later, he lifted his mask and stared at his latest "controlled accident."
Since his retirement from the oil field two years ago, Ed has been creating 3D metal art and showcasing pieces at local flea markets and craft shows.
"It's mostly depictions of all kinds of critters and all kinds of creations in my mind. They more or less create themselves," Ed said.
The artist explained he found this new passion when he was forced to retire after developing a bad case of Arthritis.
"I needed just something to do and this seems to take that time and it does it pretty good too. I like this a lot," Ed said. "It gives me plenty of time to think about things and the creations that come out of it are very satisfying."
Over the last two years, Ed has made hundreds of his unique pieces. He explained the creation process varies in length and with each new product he better understands what it means to be an artist.
"These are more or less like calculated mistakes or controlled accidents and from what I understand all art is that way. Some people are just more gifted than others," Ed said. "Some people see things better than others...these tools have their own personalities and I see those."
Originally from South Texas, Ed and his wife Linda have lived in Shawnee for over two decades. For a large portion of his life, Ed worked on various off shore oil rigs.
"I did some land work in Oklahoma and that's what brought me here 12 years ago and I retired a couple of years ago. I couldn't do that type of work anymore...and we've enjoyed (Shawnee). It's been nice," Ed said.
Over time, Ed explained he's become more established in the community and many residents have purchased his works.
"Quite surprisingly, for this area, it's been good. A lot of people give compliments...(The goal) is not necessarily to sell the art it's to get recognized and in the end it seems like I've become a recognized artist," Ed said.
The 3D metal creator said he has met other amazing artists since he's started his endeavor and he joined a local group known as ARS Prima.
"It's been a great ride this art stuff. A lot of people retire and then go to art...but then there's also the real creators and I like being around a few of those," Ed said.
All the pieces at Zed Metal 3D are made from car parts, tools, nuts, bolts and various other metal scraps Ed finds at garage sales, pawn shops and from members of the community.
"It's just uncanny how some of this stuff creates it's own life. Sometimes I make a mistake or what I think is a mistake and it ends up being the best part of the piece," Ed said. "That's why I called it a controlled accident."
Many different people purchase Ed's "controlled accidents" and he said they typically range from $20-$200.
Each "calculated mistake" is unique, but Ed engraves his artist name, Zed, into every piece. He explained he received the nick name after working on oil rigs in West Africa and his second in command thought he said "It's Zed" when he was introducing himself and he actually said "It's Ed."
"I hope in the end that after I'm gone that a lot of these pieces will still be around and I do inscribe in them my artist name...the Zed...and hopefully one day down the road somebody will pick one up and turn it upside down, or side ways or whatever and see that name," Ed said.
For more information or to purchase Ed's art visit zedmetal3d.com.