After 30 years in the steel business, Michael Mistler wanted to create an elephant.

After 30 years in the steel business, Michael Mistler wanted to create an elephant. Not on a sketchpad, not on a canvas, but out of bent and pounded steel. His prior experience with the medium involved crafting handrails, staircases, and even trailers. With a love of drawing and the ability to artistically design almost anything, Mistler says this form of art came very naturally to him.

“I’d say that this is a god-given talent,” Mistler said. “It just comes naturally.”

Since making the first creation for his wife, Mistler has gone on to make dozen of other creations, big and small. From a massive statue of St. Joseph and Jesus, to his trademark wind spinners seen displayed in his front yard in Eldon, Mistler has dabbled in creations all over the board. All of this work comes with no formal training in the art. 

His would in this field began as far back as 1999. Mistler moved from his home in Jefferson City to Eldon in 2015 and used his brother’s shop for his art. Eventually, he set up a workshop in his own garage to do all of his work from home in October 2017. He is able to supply his steel from his brother’s steel company Dam Steel and has created his own tools from scratch in order to closely mend and pound the steel to his own specifications. 

Mistler says that much of the time, people are not drawn to his work by standard advertising of the business. He says that he has realized displaying his work in its natural setting is enough to peak the interest of passing cars. With a few shining wind spinners set up near his dancing turtles, his front yard shines brightly on a sunny day and is hard to miss. Not only does this catch people’s attention, but Mistler says it is a good representation of just how special these creations are. 

“I’ve made bears, walruses, dragons, you name it,” Mistler said. “I enjoy always having something new to show.”

Though he retired from the steel business years ago, Mistler says this line of work has become a new full-time job in a way. He works on these figures everyday and still, they can take months to complete individually. With factors such as weight of the material, which at times has totaled on a single figure to more than a few tons of steel, and intricacy of the form, every project is long term. In order to counteract this, Mistler says he will take on multiple projects at a time and fluctuate between them to keep things fresh. 

Mistler says he has no immediate plans for big projects or expansions of business anytime soon. He says he wants to continue to enjoy the art and take it day to day. For the time being, his main goal is to take on whatever project comes next and make it the best that he can.

“You just take steel, a hammer and anvil, and you start beating on it,” Mistler said. “I think to myself ‘Wow.’ The things I have created doing this is really amazing.”