As CJ Rench Design Studio, Chris “CJ” Rench manipulates metal into sculptures with organic lines and shapes (imagine circles, orbs and super-cool squiggles) that he finishes off in either rustic or sleek patinas, or powder-coats in eye-popping colors such as Granny Smith green and School Bus yellow. “You have to have a passion for working with metal to do it because there’s nothing easy about it,” says the 43-year-old, who is also a national sales manager for a couple of companies that make wind-surfing equipment. “Metal doesn’t always perform the way you want it to, but it can take on so many shapes and forms. Luckily, I have a mind that can visualize and draw in 3D. I love getting metal to work with me.”
Born in Elgin, Ill., Rench had relocated to Washington state by the time he attended high school, after which he studied marketing at community colleges in both California and Washington state. “I became an industrial designer by trade, not by schooling,” says the avid windsurfer who calls Hood River, Ore., home. “I’d never been overseas until I was 23, when I got a job designing snowboard equipment and had to visit countries in the Pacific Rim every six weeks.”
Rench’s most spirited line is called Happy Humans, an arms-thrown-wide everyman (or everywoman) that he’s fashioned into everything from jewelry to wine bottle stoppers to this 8-foot-tall stainless-steel sculpture meant to infuse a garden with fun and to clue you in on how windy a day it is (a rod and two bearings let a puff of wind spin the top “human” of the 80-pound work of art). Rench laser-cuts each panel, then welds the sides together to create his 3-foot-tall, 10-inch-thick crazy-happy figures. “My daughter Katen inspired my Happy Humans,” he says. “I love the way that she and I play together; we just get goofy. She inspired me to make a sculpture that says to kids, ‘You can choose to make life fun!’”The Happy Humans kinetic sculpture costs $16,900. Garden art in the 6 1/2-foot-tall range starts at $800. Wall panels and tabletop pieces start at $182.
Contact sculptor Chris Rench via his website, cjrdesignstudio.com.