CHEYENNE, Wyo. (WyomingNewsNow) - A year and a half ago Kris Schiffman didn’t know much about welding, aside from the fact she wanted to do it. The activity had been on her bucket list, but she hadn’t had the opportunity to try. That all changed when she started working as the Resident Artist at Terry Bison Ranch south of Cheyenne.
Kris has spent 20 years working as an office manager for a veterinary clinic. She brought her passion for animals with her when she came to the Terry Bison ranch working retail at the trading post there.
“I told them I thought I could do more,” Kris says, “Looking around the ranch I saw things that could be more lively. So they had me start by painting bird houses.”
Kris proved to not only have a flare for the artistic, but was also handy and could do a lot of practical work around the ranch. That’s when her boss, Dan Thiel, had an idea.
“He came up to me and said ‘I bet you can make a bison.’” Kris remembers, “And I said I don’t even know how to weld.”
So Dan sent Kris to his father, Ron Thiel, to learn how to weld. Ron is a bit of a tinkerer himself and builds many of the things around the ranch, from train cars to wagons. It was also Ron who bought the ranch back in the early 90’s.
“She was a quick learner,” Ron says, adding that Kris showed a lot of talent.
Kris learned to weld in three days then went to work on the sculpture. One hundred and sixty hours and more than a thousand pieces later, “Tinker” made his debut. “Tinker” is a life sized bison made from everything but the kitchen sink, quite literally. Various chains, tools, and bits and pieces make up the bison, including a tractor seat for the rump and a bathtub foot for the chin.
“They love him,” Kris says, talking about tourists reactions to the sculpture, “One thing they’ve noted to the owner constantly was the addition of Tinker.”
Of course Kris isn’t done yet, because there is always more work to do on a ranch.
“Today I’m working with wood, the next might be metal, tomorrow I might, tomorrow I might have a nail gun in my hand, who knows.”
Kris has more projects in the works, including a life size horse sculpture in the same style as Tinker.