8 th Dec 2013
A friend sent me a collection of photographs of this man’s sculptures made from a most unlikely free source – recycled Wrenches or Spanners .
After adding a .jpeg to each i was able to load them into Picasa and create this movie and post it to YouTube.
Today 2nd Jan 2014 I found several sources of information on the Sculptor now posted below:
INTERVIEW WITH ‘THE SPANNER MAN’
John Piccoli (known colloquially as ‘The Spanner Man’) still lives on the family property at Barraport
in the Boort area near Bendigo in Victoria. His grandfather Esias Piccoli (who came out to Australia
from Switzerland) selected the land in 1876 and named it ‘Bryngoleu’ – which is a Welsh name for
“view from the hill”. As you drive into the property there is a collection of old farming machinery on
either side of the road. John says that he has an example of every machine used for farming in this
area dating back to the late 1800’s.
John was born in 1941 and when he was eight years old contracted Polio, after which he went into
hospital. Three years later he came out. As you can imagine, he had a pretty torrid time, with the
treatments for this disease available at the time. It also meant, unlike today, that he had no
schooling during this time and he found it hard to catch up; so, like many people of his generation,
he is mainly self-taught.
John’s father passed away when he was eighteen and despite all the setbacks he had endured,
John recovered sufficiently to be able to run the family farm with the help of his mother.
One of his passions is a love for animals and birds and all of his life he has had pet birds. Stud
Dorset Horns and Stud Poll Dorset sheep were bred. He also had turkeys, squab pigeons, Wagyu
and other breeds of cattle, deer, goats, ostriches, camels, pheasants, peacocks, Guinea fowl,
finches, various breeds of ducks (including Mandarin and Scaup), different kinds of quail and also
In 1993 John obtained two pairs of Macaws from the first legal shipment that came to Australia. One
pair was green wings and the other was blue and gold. He now has 12 Macaws and owns one of
the best breeding collections in this country (including some rare colour variations which are sought
after). These are magnificent birds and several of them will talk to you.
John says that he had always done a lot of welding. It is something that he finds easy to do and
enjoys. He has a good workshop on the property and has accumulated tens of thousands of
spanners over the years. In the early eighties he began making his garden sculptures using these
spanners that he welds together in three-dimensional shapes. His first masterpiece was a coffee
table, then two of them, then garden seats and now life-sized animals. Because he was using up his
spanners so quickly, he then had to start buying more, which he still does today.
John’s rusty sculptures are rather like iron lace pieces. He gets a photo of the animal or whatever it
is he wants to sculpt and then creates a piece from that. He visualises in his head how he is going
to do it and then proceeds without the use of drawings. Because he is now confined to a wheelchair,
John works mainly on the ground and manoeuvres the pieces around with the use of ropes and
overhead pulleys. It is truly remarkable how he does this.
With exhibitions in Melbourne at Manyung Gallery, the Gary McEwen Galleries in St Kilda,
Southbank, the Artist Garden in Fitzroy and Darling Harbour in Sydney, John is becoming very well
known for his work.
‘Bryngoleu’ garden is a lovely setting for John’s sculptures and because it is quite large, gives a
lovely canvas to be able to show them off to their best advantage. On the day I visited I saw many
wonderful pieces, including a bull with huge horns, two fighting horses and a swordfish (all full size).
John’s latest creation is a bucking bronco with a cowboy on his back.
It was a pleasure to meet John when I visited his property in May 2009. He is a truly amazing man
and an example to us all in what you can do to overcome adversity – a true genius in his own field.
If you happen to be in the Boort area, it is well worth contacting John to see if you can visit
his property and see his wonderful sculptures. His details are: telephone (03) 5455 4257
The background information on John and his family was supplied to me by Paul and Cathie Haw, for which I thank them.