This Month’s Featured Article

Where Art and Heart Take Shape

By Published On: November 9th, 2022

There’s one thing you can’t overlook when you meet the works of Tim Jones and Silda Wall Spitzer: they’re heavy. Heavy because the works are typically large and are made with varying sizes and types of metals which are then combined and secured with other pieces of metal.

You have to be strong to create pieces like the ones that line the driveway to Tim’s studio, Stissing Design, in Pine Plains, NY. Strong and tough and gritty. The works feature giant screws; a repurposed meat grinder; a serpentine steel conveyor belt; large plates in abstract shapes that are as tall as people.

And yet there’s so much that’s light in the works, as well. They have names like Funny Face, and Off the Rails, and Attachment Theory. When Tim and Silda talk about the works, they chuckle and smile. “For this one,” Silda said, referring to Attachment Theory, “we were playing with the idea of people framing themselves in pictures. Part of this piece can be moved around so that it becomes a frame you can position in different places. You get captured in its construction.” There’s playfulness and ascendancy in the pieces at the same time they’re so very grounded.


We’re marveling at a magnificent and unique chandelier created by Tim and Silda. An abstracted steel shape representing the Catskills is suspended from the roof by four strong cables that are about 12 feet long. Down from this base hang 23 LED lights in hand-blown blue glass casings. They’re connected to cables of different lengths that create a cascading effect – a continuation of the azure mountains visible through the windows.

“I don’t think anyone but Tim could have figured out how to make this work structurally,” Silda said with admiration and respect. And indeed, it’s a giant, complicated, heavy – yet light! – finished puzzle of powerful beauty and functionality, proof that two heads can be better than one.

When I ask Tim about the chandelier, he said, “Our mantra is ‘No Rules.’ I think things through from every angle. I do my best work in my head, usually at 2am,” he said, smiling. “The base had to be hollow so the roof could support the piece,” he said, “and the wiring had to be just right.” (They both credited Kyle Lougheed at Ginocchio Electric with the accomplished electrical work).


Tim and Silda met after Silda stumbled upon Stissing Design years ago and recognized Tim’s talents. “We started working together after I needed a multi-dimensional metal frame structure for a mixed media art project I was working on,” she continued, “and I took it to Tim. He immediately got what I was trying to do.”

The pair has been collaborating creatively for nearly a decade. As someone who is reluctant to let someone else add salt to something I’m cooking, I’m fascinated by their partnership. I ask them about how they got started. “I had always wanted to learn welding and make large-scale sculptures,” Silda said. She’s an artist who then primarily painted. “I asked Tim if he could teach me.”

“I was interested in making bigger pieces,” Tim said, “so it worked for me.”

“The stars lined up,” Silda said with a twinkle in her eyes.

“She took to it right away,” Tim added.

“I’m a very good grinder,” Silda said with a laugh.

On his website Tim describes their artistic partnership by saying, “It’s great when two people can look at something being moved around for the right visual, and they are both saying “No, no, no, – Yes!” at the very same time, every time.” That line stuck with me when I read it, and it’s clearly true.

Round and round

We’re in a part of Silda’s studio where the pair has created pieces featuring larger-than-life round metal balls in the shapes of pearls and bubbles. There’s Bubble Bath, a piece featuring an old metal tub overflowing with the iridescent white “bubbles.” They’re all round, but they’re different sizes.

“We found these steel balls,” Silda said, “and then figured out how to weld and grind them to attach bolts that can allow them to be put together and taken apart to create different configurations.”

The pearlized appearance was done by a powder coating company.

“We love spheres,” Silda said, “and in Bubble Bath there’s joy and cleansing and renewal. It’s fun and happy.” And yet the bubbles themselves are very heavy – “lethal!” Silda added at one point when talking about working with them and putting them together. Ditto for the work featuring the balls as pearls, a piece in progress where several strands of “pearls” perch loosely yet together on a base. The appearance is of light and elegant (though very large) jewelry – a woman’s oft-worn strands of favorite pearls resting on her bedside table. “For me,” Silda said, “pearls symbolize wisdom and beauty and resilience.”

They’re playing with spheres outdoors, too. In a budding work called Dandelions, Silda and Tim have challenged themselves to mount large fiberglass globes on metal stems so they can be supported at heights of up to four feet tall, flexible enough to sway in the wind, and durable enough to survive the four seasons of this part of upstate New York. So far there are three “dandelions” – Dr. Seuss-like bright yellow balls peeking around tall dead grasses on a hillside with a view of the blue hills in the distance. The goal is to create a sculptural garden of 12 to 18 of them. (This enchanting landscape can be constructed by them in your garden, too).

Beauty, joy, renewal, wisdom, resilience. Heavy, yet light. The words fit the works, and they fit the artists, too.

Meet Tim

Tim Jones is a native of Dutchess County, with roots reaching back through six generations of blacksmithing, including his grandfather, with whom he often worked while growing up. His father wanted Tim to follow in his career footsteps as a mechanic and welder, and Tim earned his welding certificate from Dutchess County BOCES after high school. He worked as mechanic, welder, and equipment operator, and was elected to be Superintendent of Highways when he was just 24. Tim started a management and construction company, all while doing artistic welding work as a hobby. Eventually he wanted to pursue more design work. Word of his talents spread, and he began consulting with designers around the world.

He learned that zinc was an often-used metal in Europe both because of its availability (and therefore practicality), but also for its antibacterial properties. He fell in love with it for its soft finish and the way it weathers. “It’s beautiful,” he said, “but it’s really hard to work with. It’s brittle, and I had to experiment with the temperatures I was using on it in the process.”

He was one of the first in the US to design in zinc, and his pieces – table tops and more – were soon discovered and sought after. These days zinc plays a lesser role to materials ranging from wood to steel to stone, and he works with decorators and designers around the world to create site-specific furnishings and other pieces in a variety of mediums.

His home remained Pine Plains. His deep love of the land and the people and the history permeate his life – past, present, and future. Tim’s ancestors were some of the first to settle with Native Americans in this part of the Hudson Valley, and Tim tells how his grandmother loved the woods and could identify and make use of its gifts. “She was shamanistic,” he said, “and taught me about patience.”

His grandmother was especially fond of herons, a bird the Native Americans said were the most patient of all. Tim learned this about herons and grew to marvel at and love them, too. One of his favorite solo works is of a heron. It’s solid and still; majestic.

As a child, Tim learned to track all kinds of animals – something that takes great patience and an innate ability to look for clues. Tim taught conservation and tracking at a camp in Putnam County, and he leads nature walks in Buttercup Farm Audubon Sanctuary in Stanfordville, NY.

In the heart of the hamlet of Pine Plains is a fountain that Tim constructed that reflects the area’s dairy heritage. He is intimately connected to his “place” and its magic, and spoke affectionately of a day when his grandson and granddaughter might work alongside him in his studio.

There’s a telling piece in the studio called Escape. It’s lanky and prickly, featuring tall pieces of rusted metal upon which are attached bars and barbed wire representing the cruelest of fences. The bars are broken, though, wrenched apart. “It’s meant to express freedom and hope,” Tim said, reflecting on the influence that watching the Nuremberg Trials had on him when he was young. It’s a piece that’s hard to look at – and hard to look away from. Silda added that she will be painting the panel behind the piece with a scene representing something hopeful to escape to. Again there’s heaviness and depth in the work, but also light.

Meet Silda

And Silda? Tim teased that she’s a “city girl,” and she was quick to relay that though her home town of Concord, NC, wasn’t the country, there were plenty of rural influences all around. “There were farms everywhere,” she said, “and my father’s parents had a large garden that provided lots of vegetables to help feed us.”

Her education and career took her far from home, however, eventually to the hallowed halls of Harvard University, where she earned a law degree, and then to the corporate offices of Manhattan where, as Sinatra’s words ring true for any of us who have lived there, “If I can make it there, I’ll make it anywhere.” She certainly did, and with her then-husband, Eliot Spitzer, Silda rose to the political and societal heights of First Lady to the Governor of New York.

When that came undone for her and her family, Silda regrouped and rebounded. This chapter in her story was beautifully told by Rebecca Johnson in an article for Vogue Magazine in 2009 ( It’s no wonder Silda’s not intimidated by hoisting an old conveyor belt over a piece of rusty metal until it finds its equilibrium and settles into itself, or turning large metal balls into bubbles and pearls.

She’s no stranger to resilience, and she’s quick to find joy. With gratitude, she delights in unfolding chapters with her new life partner, their daughters and their partners, her recently born grandson, and other cherished family and friends. She has also remained committed to projects that are important to her – the environment and sustainability, service to the community, supporting women in their work and finances.

I’m not surprised to learn that one of her heroes is Eleanor Roosevelt, a First Lady who was a champion of social causes, feminism, and a rich private life – and who loved pearls! Silda’s on the National Council of the Eleanor Roosevelt Val-Kill Partnership dedicated to advancing Eleanor’s legacy. She was asked to speak about her at an event where Blanche Weisen Cook, the author of a seminal three-volume biography of the First Lady, was also speaking. “I did a lot of research so I could do a good job,” Silda shared, “and of course I got to meet Blanche, which was a real privilege.”


Over and over again I find that Silda seems to be at intersections where her life connects with someone else’s in a transcendent way, where an unusual circumstance turns itself into special bond, or a new venture, or a vision. I asked her about this.

“A lot of things come or can come through us if we allow it,” she mused. “There’s pain we all go through in life.” she continued, “and we can step back and reflect on it, and learn to laugh again.”

I’m reminded of the piece Escape in Tim’s studio, with its sharp, rusty barbs giving way to a clearing, and also Chain of Love, which was in Silda’s home studio – a free-standing, rusty old tow chain about six feet long that’s welded vertically up from an opened heart-shaped base.

“The most poignant art,” Silda reflected, “combines pain and hope – and often humor.”


I learn that Tim has survived many surgeries, including open heart for an aneurysm. It’s a miracle, really, that he’s still doing what he does. “I’m crazy stubborn,” he said, with a weight to the words that went way deeper than how simply they were stated.

When I ask this artist with no formal training about artistic influences, he answers emphatically that it’s “Pete Wing, a local guy. He built a castle out of found pieces,” he said. “It’s called Wing’s Castle. Pete was also a painter and a sculptor. No rules,” Tim added knowingly. “No boundaries.”

For Silda and her artistic inspiration, “I always go back to [Jean-Baptiste Camille] Corot,” she said. “And we both love George Inness. I also had the honor of meeting Ellsworth Kelly before he died,” Silda said, “and he had a huge influence on me and the work I do with blocks of color.” She described an interview she sat in on between Kelly and Agnes Gund, a philanthropist who spearheaded his work early on, as “the most magical moment ever.”

It’s an enchanting time for me, speaking with Tim and Silda about art and life. There’s an intoxication in ideas and then the courage to fashion them into art. I’m still bewildered by the relationship between the two of them, who live so close to these edges and can make art in tandem. In my experience, this is as rare as the works are original. “We’re artistic soulmates,” Silda said matter-of-factly. “There’s our friendship, and our art. It’s never been other than that.”

Tim quickly added, “Purely platonic. And we can talk to each other about anything.”

In my continuing fascination with this pair, I did an online search of characteristics of metal workers, just for the fun of it. On I found the following: “Metal workers score highly on conscientiousness, which means that they are methodical, reliable, and generally plan out things in advance. They also tend to be high on the measure of extraversion, meaning that they rely on external stimuli to be happy, such as people or exciting surroundings.” This rang remarkably true for these two.

See for yourself

Tim and Silda hope to have a show in the not-too-distant future, and to be working with galleries. Their works are available for purchase. The best way to see them is to go to Stissing Design at 2816 Church Street in Pine Plains. Email or call first to make an appointment to be sure someone is there (, or leave a message at (845) 204-4229). The website has a link to “Art and Sculpture Gallery” pages, too, where available works can be seen. And of course there are the pieces shown in this article.