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Made in ILLINOISouth with Tam-I-Am

Made in ILLINOISouth with Tam-I-Am

Posted on 10/25/2022 by Andy Waterman

One fateful day in 2017, Wayne County resident Tammy Lee injured her back. The freelance court reporter was unable to work, and while she was awaiting spinal surgery and not working, it became very evident she needed a hobby. “I was looking through Pinterest and saw some scrap metal art that I thought was really cool, and I mentioned it to my husband,” Lee explains. “The next thing I know, he took me to a farm supply store and bought me a little welder. He brought me out to the shop and gave me my first lesson, it just literally took off from there.”

Her specialty is welding pieces of art together out of scrap metal and other general ‘junk.’ In a few short years, she has honed her craft. While Lee would eventually return to her freelance gig, she admits she would often think to herself during the day that she would much rather be in her shop. In 2020, Lee retired from her career a few years early – trading in her suits and dresses for a pair of overalls and work boots. Thus, Junkyard Art by Tam-I-Am was officially started. “Life is too short to not enjoy what you do,” Lee says.

Business has boomed in the short time since she made the switch. She made a simple TikTok video of her ‘junkyard art’, and it went viral, amassing over TWO MILLION views. At this point, it’s pretty difficult for Lee to keep up with demand, but she’s always busy because of it! One thing is for sure, Lee has no shortage of materials to work with, one look at her shop makes it apparent. She says that thanks to many local southern Illinoisans hearing her story, she has been gifted piles of scrap items. “I use a lot of scrap metal, old tools that have been cast away. I also use a lot of nuts and bolts, sprockets, pulleys. I like everyone’s castaways that they have no use for, and then I bring new life to it,” Lee adds.

So, exactly what kind of art does she make? The short answer is a little bit of everything. There are pieces with names on them, figures of tennis players, hearts, you name it. Lee also accepts custom orders, and she normally has a vision for how a piece will turn out. “I pick up a piece and I see a shape in my head, and I build around that. But sometimes when I start on something I have absolutely no clue how I’m going to accomplish it, and it always comes together somehow,” Lee admits.

Lee also has a policy that if you order something from her and you don’t love it – she will keep it and sell it see about selling it to another customer. “I want all of my customers to be crazy in love with what they have bought from me,” she says. “As long as I’m enjoying it myself and have customers that are enjoying it, I see myself doing it until I’m no longer able,” she says.

If you are interested in checking out Lee’s works of art, look up Junkyard Art by Tam-I-Am on social media. You can now also a order a premade piece off of her website, and she will ship it to you. That website is junk-yard-art.com. If you’d like to watch our feature video on Tammy Lee and Junkyard Art by Tam-I-Am, just check out our YouTube channel!


This article comes from the 2022 edition of the Holiday Tourism Times. To request your free guide to seasonal fun, visit our Tourism Times page.



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