Gary Manos’ palette is steel. His knife is a plasma cutter. He details with an angle grinder and paints with a MAP torch.
“I’m not going to go into some deep religious thing,” the soft spoken 46-year-old says, “but I really feel like this is what I was put here to do. I absolutely love making these things.”
Manos produces metal art cuttings by slicing shapes through sheets with a plasma cutter, which uses gas and an electrical arc to melt through the steel. Once the shape is produced, Manos rounds corners and adds detail with an angle grinder, from a scale pattern on salmon cuts to leafy strokes on pine trees. A propane torch heats the metal to bring out colors on either side.
Manos’ work can be seen locally at Oceanic Arts in New- port. His artwork can also be found in other Oregon galleries and in galleries in Florida, California, and Washington. The first gallery to show his work is located in Sisters, the same place that he was in- spired to start metal cutting.
While having a meal in Sisters, Manos noticed similar steel cuttings. “I was sitting in this restaurant and saw the booth dividers and said ‘I can do this,’” he recalls. Several years later, he had sold his boat and ATV in exchange for his tools, and he now works out of a small shop in South Beach, Steel Knight Designs.
“This is probably the one thing in my life, other than my kids,” he remarks at his work- shop, “I can say I am convinced beyond any reasonable shadow of doubt that this is what I was put here to do.”
He also says a good portion of his inspiration comes from those around him, such as his children or customers. “You dismiss it at the time,” he says, “but when you think about it later you think, ‘oh that could work.’”
When his work is lined up and he knows what he needs to do, Manos enjoys getting straight into it. “When there’s a lot of orders from online, and I know what to make, I don’t even have to think about it.” But other times, it’s not as simple.
He says the most difficult part of his work is getting inspired. “One of the hardest parts is probably being creative when you’re not in the mood.” Often, Manos simply spends time outside to find inspiration in nature, from the fish of the bay to Oregon’s mountains. “I take a walk down the beach, and 45 minutes to an hour later I’m getting back in and turning stuff out.”
But Manos says he can’t complain about a creative slump, having come out of almost 20 years in the service industry with G.I. Joes and AT&T. He says that it can be difficult to force himself to come in when he doesn’t feel like it, but he acknowledges that “a lot of people
don’t have that luxury.”
Manos gets the most enjoyment from his work when he finishes a custom project exactly to a customer’s vision, “when I see what they’re seeing in their head, when a large project or order comes together, and the customer is beyond satisfied.”