Lansing Township News
Troy Sika of Westside Car Care holds one of his in-progress works of art, a welded bark tree. (Photo by Jordan Jennings)
LANSING TOWNSHIP — Combining experience from his auto repair business and machine shop, passion for car heritage and love for scrap metal fabricating, Troy Sika of Lansing, Michigan welds automotive parts into art.
Having begun his thriving Westside Car Care in 1982, Sika calls his shift into art “a natural progression.”
Although it began as a hobby, Sika’s art landed him as a member of the Arts Council of Greater Lansing. He calls the Arts Council a “resource pool,” and has attended some of their workshops and even received commissions through it.
Ed Bonnen, business manager and partner of Kim Kauffman Studio in Lansing, is good friends with Sika. With Kauffman photography studio previously next door to Westside Car Care, Bonnen started taking his vehicles to Sika 20 years ago.
Bonnen says he liked taking his vehicles to Sika is because “he’s meticulous and thorough… He’s a great problem solver and he isn’t afraid of tackling difficult situations.”
This attention to detail is also evident in his art.
“And they’re fun, they’re playful… And then he turns around and tells me he can name every car, make and model that goes into the parts that are in these things,” says Bonnen.
Already rooted in the art community, Bonnen helped Sika get more exposure. “I really like what he’s doing, so I just planted him in different directions and he went with it.”
Raised in Mason, Michigan, Sika says he’s “always felt very proud to be brought up and raised in car country.” It’s very important to him to use automotive parts in his art.
He calls himself “very old fashioned,” and does all of his work by hand. Anything else “takes away from the tradition of metal working to me,” he says.
In a way, Sika’s art is a community effort—many of the parts he uses are supplied by his customers. Donations include car parts and old tools from the early- to mid-1900s. He says he loves to use that kind of stuff because “they’re all part of… American automotive history.”
Now, all tools are made by computers, machines, or overseas. “They’re just not the same,” he claims.
Currently Sika is working on another of his ever-popular tree works. Beginning with a pipe, he’s in the process of welding layers onto it. With 50 hours already into the piece, he has yet to finish welding and polishing it. A solution of muriatic acid and salt water will create rust in between the polished “bark” to give it more texture.
Sika has been working for the past few years to perfect his metal trees’ realism.
Does he sketch out each of his pieces during the planning process? “I’m a stick figure drawer,” he replies, denying at traditional artistic ability. “No, I just think it out one piece at a time.”
His favorite piece is a complex pond scene titled “Down By the River,” which won People’s Choice Award in the 2012 Lansing Scrapfest.
How much does his wife and two children participate in his art designs? “Probably more than what he likes sometimes,” his wife, Sandra, says.
“He kind of surprised us I think when he first started to do that,” she says. “It was never something he intended to do, she says.
“It’s hard not to get excited about it because it’s very creative,” she adds.
Using “dead” metal to represent living creatures appeals to Sika. This irony is also reflected in how all of Sika’s pieces, whether animals or people, contain a metal heart.
“If I have a trademark, that’s probably it,” he says.
This liveliness seems to be one of his work’s most appealing traits.
“It’s all rusty and nasty and dirty, and then when you make something like that, people just smile. And that’s the best part of the whole thing,” he says.
Sika’s future projects include a piece for Art Prize next year. A drawer full of spark plugs will also soon become an Indian’s headdress.
His first ever piece of art greets you when you enter Westside Car Care. (Photo by Jordan Jennings)
Sika turned this Chrysler engine block out of a 1999 Dodge Stratus into a table. “That engine would’ve been worth about $15 scrap for the aluminum, and that’s where it was heading… then I grabbed it and spent a lot of time polishing it and making it into a table.” (Photo by Jordan Jennings)
Sika’s art space. On the left, an in-process “crazy bird” that will be put in the tree he’s welding. The bird is made out of saw blades, and old railroad spike and pruning shears. (Photo by Jordan Jennings)
1930s heavy industrial wrenches become arms or legs. (Photo by Jordan Jennings)