Since 1998, Morris Jorgensen of Ringsted has made and sold 923 weathervanes to people in 35 states.
You heard that right. A total of 923 weathervanes in 35 states.
And he made every single one by himself, using a torch and sheet steel.
Sculptor Morris Jorgensen attaches a chromed weathervane with the assistance of Holle Smith, NorthStar Bank marketing director.
EDN photo by Michael Tidemann
Working on his acreage south of Ringsted, Jorgensen has become something of a legend in making weathervanes. Weathervanes were once as common as every barn. But with barns themselves rapidly vanishing from the Iowa prairie, replaced by machine sheds, Jorgenson is giving them a renaissance as an art form in their own right.
Jorgensen is exhibiting his work at NorthStar Bank in September as part of the Neighborhood Artist Review, a project of the Excel! Estherville Arts and Culture Committee.
Jorgensen's work has been featured in Our Iowa Magazine and he's done commissions, including one for an Iowa State University scholarship. And if that's not enough, he also has a stained glass shop and has started restoring vintage bicycles, including a 1954 Schwinn Corvette, named for the Chevrolet Corvette that came out the year before, and a 1967 Hawthorne that he restored for Bob Jensen of Estherville. The Schwinn has special sentimental value for Jorgensen since that was the year he was born and the Hawthorne was Jensen's boyhood bicycle.
So how did Jorgensen ever venture into such an unusual artform?
Well, it all started when he was putting a roof on a barn and thought it needed a weathervane. He asked the owner, Fern Handeland, if she agreed.
"She thought that was all right," said Jorgensen. "It didn't take long for someone else to want one too."
While Jorgensen has a Web site, weathervaneman.com, he said most of his business has come through word of mouth. He most recent piece went to Central City, Neb. and the two before that went to New Mexico. The one that went to Central City was a Willys Jeep going through a river.
Jorgensen has taken pictures of people on their motorcycles and with their cars and tractors - all great weathervane subjects. While they don't go on barns so much anymore, a lot are mounted on four-by-four posts in yards.
Many of Jorgensen's weathervanes are based on an archetypal model he's chromed - a self-portrait of his own face at the arrow with the feather a portrait of his redbone hound dog he once had.
The bicycle restoration part of his business - Jorgensen's Bike Rehab - is really a labor of love considering the painstaking work it takes to restore a vintage bicycle.
The 1954 Schwinn Corvette he restored retained the 1954 frame but he added parts from 1955 and 1959 Schwinns. The 1967 Hawthorne required craftsmanship that was equally meticulous.
"Every single part I've had in my hand," Jorgensen said.