The hammerhead from stolen 800-pound hammer sculpture in Healdsburg returned
Maybe what produced this happy ending was wistful, wishful residents of greater Healdsburg being heard singing or humming, “If I Had a Hammer.”
Regardless, the giant sculpture of a tool swiped six months ago from the lawn outside the Healdsburg Community Center is back. The business end of it, anyhow.
Somebody evidently dumped the massive, steel head of the hammer sculpture in a place where it could be found.
Santa Rosa attorney Izaak Schwaiger notified Healdsburg police on Thursday that someone had left the 6-foot, more than 200-pound steel hammerhead on property in Sonoma County owned by a client.
Schwaiger said his client, who wanted to remain anonymous, asked him to “mediate the artwork’s return.” It was the first time the attorney recalls having been asked to shepherd the repatriation of a god-sized ball peen hammer.
“It’s such an interesting and odd request of a lawyer that I couldn’t turn it down,” Schwaiger said.
On Friday, the recovered portion of the art installation was back where it started, in the care and custody of Doug Unkrey. The artist is a longtime creative partner of the Voigt Family Sculpture Foundation, responsible for gracing publicly accessible places with the hammer and more than a dozen other sculptures.
Unkrey has returned the recovered piece to the Voigt Foundation production facility outside Geyserville, where he created the grand-scale sculpture.
Having inspected the hammerhead, Unkrey said that restoring it to its pre-heist condition will take some effort.
“It needs to be refurbished,” said the sculptor, machinist and fabricator. “It’s been sitting in mud, or it was partially buried.”
Restoring the steel hammerhead may well be the easier part of the task that lies before Unkrey. He also will need to replace the 21-foot-long handle, which he fashioned from a redwood trunk and is still unaccounted for.
“It’s a lot of work that he’ll have to do on that,” said Judy Voigt, who founded the sculpture foundation with her late husband, Al. She noted that Unkrey worked “hundreds of hours” on the original handle.
She said a GoFundMe account may be created to raise money to hire someone to help Unkrey with the task of creating a replacement, unless someone steps forward to return the giant handle or leave it in a place where it, too, can be found.
Evidently, nobody but the thieves knows why or how the hammer was carted away from the Healdsburg Community Center on Oct. 6 or 7.
Word of the theft of a piece of art more than 20 feet long and weighing 800 pounds spread quickly across the nation, and beyond.
Unkrey posted a $1,000 reward for the return of the installation. Nothing.
Somebody stuck a 3-foot-long nail, labelled “BAIT,” into the ground near where Unkrey’s piece had lay. It failed to lure the hammer back.
Perhaps one day all will be revealed about who carried off the hammer, and why, and where it was until the muddy, rusted head appeared on the property of Schwaiger’s client, and what was done with the redwood handle.
At present, the location of the land on which the hammerhead was found is confidential. Schwaiger said his client insisted that nothing be said except that the head was found and that steps were taken to get it back where it belongs.
Both Schwaiger and Judy Voigt believe that whoever left the hammerhead wherever it was left sought to do the right thing. Voigt is satisfied “the hammer snatcher had an attack of guilty conscience and decided to do their best to make amends.”
Once the sculpture is fully rehandled and restored, the artist plans to return it to the Healdsburg Community Center lawn. Since the theft six months ago, security measures have been introduced at the center. Anyone remotely considering a replay of the caper should be advised that the restored sculpture might contain a teeny, tiny GPS tracking device, and if they steal it they’re quite sure to get nailed.
You can reach Staff Writer Chris Smith at 707-521-5211 or firstname.lastname@example.org.