To some, he was the “Godfather of Steampunk.” To many he was “Dr. Evermor.”
A former salvage operator turned artist and inventor, Tom Every, 81, died March 30 in a Sauk City nursing home after suffering declining health in recent years.
Fueled by a passion and talent for transforming everyday materials into creations often elegant and whimsical – combined with a touch of mysticism – the longtime Brooklyn resident took on the moniker “Dr. Evermor” — the namesake of his famous art park on U.S. Hwy. 12 in Sauk County.
Stoughton artist Demetra Saloutos knew Every as a cherished mentor for more than 25 years, ever since she came to the Cooksville Blacksmith Shop looking for ideas on transforming jewelry designs into larger sculptures.
She laughed when asked to recount the meeting.
“I thought he was crazy,” she told the Hub last month. “His stories would go on and on; all the people he knew and all his experiences, and watching him transform these things into beautiful peacocks.
“He was extremely intelligent and really into numbers and mathematics and angles, and there wasn’t a piece of equipment he didn’t know how to take apart and put together or how to problem solve,” Saloutos added.
The blacksmith shop was the scene where many “crazy” artistic ideas, such as the Forevertron, came to fruition. Saloutos said she enjoyed visiting there to talk with Every, and get inspiration for new ideas.
“I’d see like a milking machine on the table and he’d slowly be adding crossed blades to it, and come back two days later and see this beautiful peacock, six feet tall with trombone horns for the tail feathers,” she said. “I was lucky enough to be in this environment with these beautiful minds and watching these things transform.”
Saloutus also enjoyed visiting Every at his sculpture park, often bringing her children.
“Tom was a permanent fixture at that welding table – sometimes 18 hours straight – and he loved chewing cigars, she said. “He knew a lot of the same artists my father did, so there was a tie there. From all over the United States, people would come just to get to meet him and sit down and talk, and they’d end up being there for hours.”
When teaching her students about examples of “art in community,” University of Wisconsin-Madison art professor and public artist Gail Simpson brings students to the sculpture park to see Forevertron and other works. She said there is more there than meets the eye that sometimes takes a fellow artist to appreciate.
“One thing that initially attracts people is the sense of whimsy or playfulness, but that really undersells the work,” she told the Hub. “They have a strong sense of that classical sculpture, their expressive quality, posture, overall compositions. He had an incredible sense of composition and design.”
Simpson had the chance to meet Every several times at his sculpture park to talk about art.
“His personality was also part of what was really appealing,” she said. “It was fun to meet him; he had a great sense of style and he was a great conversationalist. He was very well known among artists, and people from all over the place would come to see the Forevertron.”
What makes Every’s art so accessible to the public, Simpson said, is how he used everyday materials.
“You could recognize the parts they were from — tools or musical instruments or wrenches, gears,” she said. “But his transformation of them made you see them completely differently, and there was something kind of magic about the way he was able to make you forget the origin of the object and see the new thing he made from it.”
And the most impressive thing to Simpson was how he made it look so effortless.
“It seems like it should be easy to do,” she said. “Just put some signs together and transform them into something wonderful, (but) it’s actually incredibly difficult. And that’s what to me was really special about his work.”