David Fowler has always liked working with his hands and studied landscape architecture in college. But he never set out to be a sculpture artist.
While working toward a master’s degree at Arizona State University, he wanted to take a metal sculpture class, but was advised not to since it wasn’t related to his coursework.
“But I thought it was, and convinced the faculty,” said Fowler. It was a decision that proved to be a turning point for him and his life work. “It turned out to be the most inspiring class I’ve ever taken,” he said. “I learned how to weld and turn abstract ideas into art. It felt like magic.”
While attending ASU, Fowler worked with Steve Martino, an award-winning landscape architect in Arizona who became his mentor. Originally from Mendocino County, Fowler then returned to California and started his own business in Santa Rosa. As an up-and-coming landscape architect, Fowler brings a fresh approach to his designs that are as distinctive as the steel sculptures he creates.
“I like to incorporate plant materials native to the area, and a design that blends into the environment and feels like it belongs there,” he said. “Most people don’t have sculptures or focal points in the landscapes. Landscape sculptures can create a place for our eyes to rest as we look out at the garden. A sea of green lawn, a hedge or row of trees doesn’t offer a focal point.”
Fowler works with clients to create a sculpture that’s original and meaningful to them. His goal is always to help his clients create an environment that’s inviting, sustainable and offers a memorable experience.
“I try to create spaces that are inviting and interesting to spend time in,” he said.
Fowler works primarily with steel, but also works with copper. He likes the “rawness” of rusted steel and how it blends into the environment. Whenever possible he tries to use reclaimed or salvaged materials because of their sustainability and unique characteristics.
Using a welder and plasma cutter, Fowler creates original gates, water features and wall art as well as sculptures to fit the landscape. He’s created wall art from sheets of steel, scraps and even plow discs. One of his largest projects involved creating panels for a steel trellis over an outdoor kitchen and a chandelier five feet in diameter. Depending on the size and complexity of the project, costs range from several hundred to several thousand dollars.
Sonoma County’s Mediterranean climate makes it easy to create an outdoor living space that’s enjoyable year-round, according to Fowler. Case in point: currently he’s working with a client to create an outdoor living area that will include a pizza oven, barbecue, island and entertainment area. When Fowler works with clients, he listens to what they hope to get out of their landscape. Every client and each project is different, said Fowler.
“Sometimes people already have specific ideas,” he said, “and other times I help them improve their landscape and show them how it can be tailored to [fit] their lifestyles.”
Not only is Fowler creative when it comes to sculpting and landscape design, but he’s also green-minded. What’s his advice on sustainable lawns?
“I suppose the most sustainable lawn is no lawn at all, or a synthetic lawn. However, I see the value in [having] a small lawn for kids and dogs,” said Fowler, who is married to Hana Clark, a family physician. They have two children, Lucas and Alena, and a new dog named Bear.