The History of Metal Magic
Lennie learned his welding and lantern-making craft skills from his roommate while studying at San Jose State University in the mid 1970s after his return from working in the Gambia, Africa, with the Peace Corps. They worked for two years selling the lanterns together at craft shows and on the quads of nearby colleges and universities; more as a lark than a serious business. Anyway, who can make a living selling tin cans?
In 1977, Lennie moved to Vermont to further pursue his main art interest, painting, while teaching on the side. After this endeavor, he worked at a worker-owned business called the Common Ground Community Restaurant in Brattleboro for sixteen years. He then took up the lantern-making craft again to sell his lanterns in the Common Ground. In 1994, he left the Common Ground and began making and selling his lanterns full-time throughout New England, New York, and Pennsylvania at festivals such as Pete Seeger's Clearwater Festival, Grassroots Festival, Old Song Folk Festival, and Falcon Ridge Folk Festival, among others.
The torch burns designs and lines into the recycled tin can, turning it a soft, gray, pewter-like color. To make larger lanterns, the cans are welded together in twos and threes to create elongated or rounder shapes. The filigree-like patterns on the lanterns cast interesting shadows when lit in a dark room. Lennie works free-hand, without any stenciling or drawing on the cans, and has continued to refine his designs over the years, fondly referring to his work as "controlled doodling."