Nearly fifty steel feathers fan out from a welded frame in Sam Crittenden’s 2016 award winning sculpture, “Native American Headdress.” Each feather bears a mottled patina of oxidation that lends the piece an organic feel. Hammered medallions at the temples of the headdress support ornate quills oxidized in patterns of iridescent hues. The metal plumage has a lacework of careful cuts, giving the sculpture an airiness and delicacy not usually associated with steel.
Sam Crittenden grew up in Hoytsville, a quarter mile his father’s childhood home. Crittenden didn’t consider himself an artist until his high school welding class. He started working with scrap metal because “you have a sheet of steel with a couple of twists or dents and you think ‘what can I do with that?” Sam and his friend, Trystin Hellander started turning scrap metal into roses that they donated to the FFA auction. After raising money for the program, they decided to work on the headdress together. Crittenden says they were so engrossed in the project that they worked late at school nearly every night. Their teacher, Mr Shoat Roath, let them into the shop after school so they could finish the piece before their senior year was over. After high school, Sam attended Southern Utah University. He dreams of one day having a welding shop at his home so he can continue with artwork.