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Thursday, March 27, 2014

Heavy metal: Milton artist on display.

Milton artist Michael Dillon forges on a 500-pound mechanical helve hammer in his Birmingham Highway shop.

Courtesy Jonathan Copsey; The Milton Herald

Local nature an inspiration

March 26, 2014

MILTON, Ga. – Hidden away behind an unassuming house that is itself hidden from view from Birmingham Highway back in the woods lies the art studio of Michael Dillon.

It looks like a large shed, but it houses machinery that would not look out of place in an Industrial Era factory – forges and cranes line the walls and dozens of pieces of metal lie on tables, while hundreds of small tools of all shapes and sizes dot along tables and shelves.

This is where Dillon makes his art.

Specializing in metals, Dillon uses his forges to create sculptures of all shapes and sizes. He was recently chosen by the city of Duluth to create its first piece of public art after a nationwide search. Milton officials are considering his work to be used in Bell Memorial Park once its renovations are complete next year.

Dillon went to the Kansas City Art Institute, graduating in 1990.

He and his family ended up in Roswell, where he worked as an architect before shuttering the office and moving to Milton to work as a full-time artist.

"Milton is a great community," Dillon said. "It's beautiful. A lot of my work is inspired by nature. This is a great place for me to be inspired. I can walk out of my house and be in my shop and be in the woods. It's a dream come true for me."

In his studio, Dillon says he can build just about anything he wants, be it architectural work or sculpture. He has cranes that can carry up to two tons of metal around his workshop. Many of the machines in the shop are post-war or earlier that he has salvaged from scrap heaps. He cleans them and fixes them.

He likened working with metal to Play-Doh – when it is heated sufficiently, it becomes pliable and can be stretched and shaped.

Some of his metal work – staircase railings and gates – have been used in the estates of Atlanta's wealthy, including several pieces for Home Depot founder Arthur Blank.

"I make beautiful objects," he said. "This is the best I can do right now, but I always feel I can do better. It is an aspiration to make work that inspires people and me."

The Duluth piece has occupied more than a year of his time. However, Dillon said he enjoys seeing his art on display for the public.

"Having my art on public display is important to me," he said. "I can share my visual vocabulary with the people, so what inspires me will hopefully inspire others."

Dillon's art can be viewed at his website, www.dillonforge.com.

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