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The art behind Hatton's eagle sculpture

EagleHerald Staff Writer

CRIVITZ—A giant eagle has landed at Triangle Park in the Village of Crivitz.

Crivitz resident and Owner of Jim’s Custom Metal Art Jim Hatton made the eagle.

Originally from Appleton, Hatton moved to the Village of Crivitz in 2013 and now permanently lives there.

“I just like the people, the area, the outdoors, the woods,” he said.

He started working at the Thilmany Papermill in Kaukauna when he was 19 and continued there until his retirement in 2013. In 1974 when he was 24, he began a sheet metal apprenticeship at Fox Valley Technical College and earned his journeyman card five years later.

Hatton said he used to practice cutting shapes out of metal to make shadow art on his own time. He bought a plasma cutter and taught himself how to weld with both his right and left hand, a skill that took a couple of years to master. “Actually, I got pretty good at it,” he said, chuckling.

He began making metal sculptures more seriously in the mid-80s after he made a deer cutout for his colleague, who was retiring.

“People said to me, ‘hey Jim, that looks really good!’ So I started making more of them,” he said.

His supervisor and superintendent let him use the papermill’s large format machine after hours to blow up pictures that he made into patterns. After he retired, he purchased his own used machine from a shop in Appleton.

The giant eagle that Hatton made for the Village of Crivitz has a 10-foot wingspan and sits on a mound of rocks in Triangle Park at the intersection of U.S. 141 and County Trunk W in Crivitz. Hatton said the sculpture is the biggest he has ever made.

“I’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback for it,” he said. “When I go to the grocery store, people will say, ‘hey Jim, I saw your eagle, looks pretty cool!’”

The Village of Crivitz asked Hatton to create something to display on top of the discontinued waterfall feature in Triangle Park.

“The village said it wanted to have a local artist do this, not someone from Wausaukee, not someone from Coleman, they wanted someone from Crivitz,” he said. “It’s an honor that they called me, they think enough of my stuff that they would like it displayed in town.”

He brought a smaller prototype eagle to a village meeting, and the village approved the design. Hatton completed the statue July 4 and installed it in Triangle Park a month later.

Hatton makes metal shadow art and garden sculptures as a hobby in his retirement.

He begins working at 8 a.m. almost every morning in the shop he built on his Crivitz property. His metal cutouts cover the walls of his shop. There is a boat, shelves stocked with paint cans, templates, Sharpies, an electric drill, sheets of metal leaning against each other and scraps of metal piled on the concrete floor.

A little after 10 a.m. Wednesday morning, Hatton was in his shop spray-painting a cutout of the American flag framed by the stoic head of an eagle. He said it was for Thunder Lake Bar & Grill, a local business on County Trunk W in Crivitz that sells his work to community members.

Hatton makes his metal shadow art cutouts using patterns that he finds, modifies or draws. He outlines the pattern on a sheet of metal with a Sharpie, then uses a grinder or putty knife to remove the slag—protrusions of melted metal that result from the cutting process. Lastly, he coats the cutouts in a layer of protective paint that keeps them from rusting.

There is a cutout hanging above the open entrance of another building on Hatton’s property. It is a welcome sign with a tree, snowmobile and mountains. Hatton said it was the first cutout he ever made.

“This is the very first thing I cut out in my life, it took me two and a half hours. Now I can cut it out in two and half minutes, and it would look a lot better,” he said. “I have a pheasant on my deck, I have a flower on my deck, I have a dragonfly in my yard, I have a moose, and those are the very first ones that I made. I keep the first thing I make of everything.”

A menagerie of rusted metal animal sculptures lives in Hatton’s yard—deer, moose, eagles, turkeys, butterflies, herons, accompanied by rows of giant flowers. He said the flowers are his favorite to make, but that the deer are the most popular. Turkeys are the most difficult, he said, because they involve extensive hand-bending of small details.

Hatton begins his garden sculptures in much the same way as his shadow art, first using patterns to cut out shapes in sheets of metal. But then he rolls and hand-welds these pieces together with rebar reinforcement to create 3D figures.

He also lets his garden sculptures rust rather than applying protective paint on them. “All the sculptures that I sell are rusty,” he said. “Once the sculpture is in your garden, you don’t have to do any maintenance.”

The eagle prototype that he brought to the Crivitz meeting was also in the yard. He said the design is exactly the same as the eagle at Triangle Park, except that the talons are slightly different, and the smaller eagle’s wings are made from one piece of metal while the larger eagle’s wings are made from two.

The metal sheets and rebar for the larger eagle are also much thicker. Hatton’s neighbor, John Van Rossem, helped him bend the eagle’s wings.

“I took the wings and mounted them in my vice, then my neighbor and I put all our body weight on there just to give that little curve,” he said. He used a shop press to bend the rebar that supports the wings.

Hatton fished out a pattern of a buffalo standing atop the word WELCOME. He set the pattern on a sheet of metal and outlined it with a Sharpie.

As Hatton was outlining the buffalo, his neighbor Van Rossem walked into the workshop. “How ya doing neighbor?” he asked. Van Rossem is also a craftsperson who makes frames, benches and other objects from pieces of wood that he finds.

Hatton finished the outline and put on a sweatshirt and some gloves to protect himself. He brought the outlined sheet over to an open metal box. The box is connected to an exhaust system that sucks fumes away from the metal as he is cutting or spray-painting and directs them outside.

He set the sheet of metal over the box and took up his handheld plasma cutter, wrapping the cord around him and over his shoulder. Hatton said he hand-cuts all of his pieces rather than using a programmable machine. He started cutting, his hand moving along the outlined buffalo with artificial precision. Sparks jetted into the box and across his sweatshirt.

He finished cutting in about five minutes and used a grinder to remove the slag from the cutout. Then he set it on top of the box and sprayed it with a coat of black paint. He turned on the fan and the exhaust system. The workshop filled with loud whirring. Another neighbor walked in and started chatting with Van Rossem.

“My neighbors stop in all the time,” Hatton yelled over the din.

He flipped over the cutout and applied paint to the other side. In a few more minutes, the cutout was finished.

Hatton said he is traveling to Cedarburg this weekend where he plans to sell some of his metal garden sculptures at the town’s Wine and Harvest Festival. It will be his last art show of the year. Besides traveling to various art shows throughout Wisconsin, Hatton also regularly sells his pieces directly from his Crivitz property and at the City of Marinette and Village of Crivitz farmers’ markets.


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Made-in-Menominee ship part vies for best of Michigan title

EagleHerald Staff Writer

MENOMINEE—Long before “green” was a hot marketing term for products and businesses, Robert Fernstrum came up with an environmentally friendly way to cool ship engines.

Eight decades later, R.W. Fernstrum & Company’s GridCooler Keel Cooler is still “cool” in more than one way.

The product, manufactured in Menominee, has made it onto the Top 10 list in the Michigan Manufacturers Association’s 2021 “Coolest Thing Made in Michigan” contest. The Top 10 was determined from votes tallied for 37 Michigan products during the contest’s first round, Aug. 30 to Sept. 10. Round two of voting to determine the state winner is open and runs through Sept. 24 at https://coolestthing.mimfg.org/.

“I was pleasantly surprised we made the Top 10,” said Sean Fernstrum, president of the fourth-generation, family-owned company and grandson of its founder, the late Robert Fernstrum. “It just helps show the importance of the work that we’re doing up here in the Upper Peninsula.”

Besides generating good publicity for the company, moving up to the Top 10 also promotes Menominee and the Michigan Manufacturers Association, which represents 1,700 member companies in Michigan.

The GridCooler Keel Cooler is similar to a car radiator because it keeps an engine cool, but it looks nothing like a radiator and it’s typically mounted below the water line on the outside of a vessel. “It’s a heat exchanger. It does water-to-water heat exchange instead of water-to-air heat exchange,” Fernstrum said.

Unlike other cooling systems that pulled sea water on board a vessel, piped it through the cooling system and expelled it back into the sea water, Robert Fernstrum designed the GridCooler as a closed-loop system.

“It’s more of a green application. You’re not processing sea water and throwing it back into the sea,” Fernstrum said. “You don’t have engine coolant coming into contact with the sea water.”

Locally, the company’s keel coolers are used on commercial fishing vessels and Washington Island ferries, They’re also on the Staten Island Ferry and the Maid of the Mist boats in Niagara Falls that give rides to tourists, Fernstrum said. Most of the company’s keel coolers, made from copper alloy, are on vessels under 300 feet long.

“To look at it, it’s a very simple product. But the engineering behind the actual production of it is actually very complex. It takes a lot of engineering and a lot of skilled talent and a skilled workforce to put these together,” Fernstrum said.

Today the company serves 60 different countries on six continents, but all of its keel coolers are still manufactured in Menominee. The company employs 33 people here and has two dozen representatives worldwide.

Fernstrum said his grandfather invented the keel cooler while working for Continental Motors Co. and Gray Motor Co. in Detroit during World War II when the U.S. Navy did a mock assault of Iceland to understand what it would face during the Normandy invasion. “Less than half of the landing craft made it to shore. They came across the ice, and the ice plugged up all of their heat exchangers. And so Robert had to come up with a solution,” Fernstrum said. The result was the new Keel Cooler.

“After the war, he took his design and started R.W. Fernstrum and Co. in 1949,” Fernstrum said.

Besides keeping ship engines cool, the company’s products are used in generators, hydraulic systems, and air conditioning. They’re also used in alternative energy, such as hydroelectric installations in South America. “We’re always looking for new projects,” Fernstrum said.

Like the other Michigan products the GridCooler keel cooler is competing against, it was nominated online for the contest, said Delaney McKinley, vice president of membership, marketing and events for the Michigan Manufacturers Association. She acknowledged a company’s ability to “activate their networks” plays a role in determining the contest winner.

“For this particular contest, it is based on online voting. It is the people’s choice award. Anyone can vote daily for one product per day” in this round of the contest, she said.

“Manufacturers do outstanding things, but not all of them do a great job of tooting their own horn or patting themselves on the back,” she said. The contest gives them a reason to reach out to others to generate votes. While the winner will be decided at midnight Sept. 24 when online voting ends, the winner won’t be announced until Nov. 4 at an awards ceremony, she said.


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Marinette County budget forwarded to county board

EagleHerald Editor

MARINETTE—The Marinette County tax rate is going to decrease next year, according to a 2022 budget summary submitted by County Administrator John Lefebvre and recommended for approval Thursday by the Administrative Committee.

The matter now goes to the full county board on Tuesday. The motion gives the administration the power to make minor tweaks to the budget until it is finalized in early October.

According to the proposed budget, the county tax rate will be $3.885 per $1,000 of assessed valuation. That’s a decrease from $4.065 per $1,000 this year and $4,154 per $1,000 in 2020.

The debt service levy fell from 25 cents per $1,000 this year to 12 cents per $1,000 in 2022. The operating levy combined with the debt service levy is $4.005 per $1,000 in 2022, down from $4.315 this year.

Total expenditures for the county, according to the proposed budget, are $69,446,851. That’s up from this year’s total of $66,911,368. Meanwhile, revenue is up from $44.98 million in 2021 to $51.154 million in 2022.

Lefebvre said he and members of the finance department, led by Finance Director Laura Mans, have been working on the budget documents for some time.

“We’re all finding little, tiny changes that we need to correct,” he told the committee, adding that committee members are sent updates whenever changes are made.

He said the changes are so small that they don’t affect the actual budget, just how the numbers appear on the summary sheet.

Lefebvre asked the committee to pay particular attention the the capital improvement plan (CIP), included in the budget information. “It’s a very important document,” he said. “The CIP identifies those types of project or expenditures that are more or less considered capital improvements.”

The CIP document points out where funding will come from for particular projects. For example, video upgrades to the courtrooms ($75,000) will come from the general budget, while a transport vehicle for the jail ($37,000) will come from the jail assessment fund.

The larges capital improvement costs are $1.5 million for routine highway maintenance and $1.25 million for winter maintenance.

Total capital improvements for 2022 are just under $10.8 million. About $4 million will be paid for by the budget/tax levy. Just over $3.7 million will be paid for through funding from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA).

Lefebvre explained that ARPA money is available for specific expenditures that meet the approval by the federal government.

Detailed budget information is available on the county website (marinettecounty.com). Click on Government—Minutes & Agendas—Administrative—Agendas—Sept. 16, 2021, to find the information on the 2022 budget.

The committee also recommended $43,900 be paid to the City of Marinette within 30 days after delivery of an Airboat. The 24-foot search and rescue airboat is being purchased from 1,000 Island Airboats of Marion, Wisconsin, for a total cost of $242,400.

The City of Marinette has contributed $120,000 to the cost, while pledges and donations are expected to net more than $72,000.

According to a letter from Marinette Fire Chief Jay Heckel the new boat will replace a hovercraft that sunk during a search and recovery mission on Shakey Lakes in December, 2020. That craft had a service life of 23 years, but was only used for 9.5 years before it sunk. It was used only during ice conditions (typically November-March).

The craft ran an average of five calls per year in those 9.5 years and 18 successful rescues, Heckel wrote. He stated the response time from receiving an alarm en route to a call is 45 to 60 seconds.


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