Mitchell Siegel of Levittown has spread his wings by combining his passion for creating art with his profession as an electrician.
During the summer, Siegel installed his first art piece at his place of worship, Temple B’nai Torah in Wantagh. The piece was made of scrap metal — which would have otherwise been discarded — that he took from his job sites.
“All of the sudden this whole sculpture thing came about, and it was something that I never realized that I had in me,” Siegel said of starting his artistic journey.
Bellmore resident Susan Salem, a garden enthusiast who turns community green spaces into gardens across Nassau County, helped Temple B’nai Torah transform unused nursery space into a functioning garden.
After the garden’s installation and a few functioning seasons, Siegel wanted to create something to decorate the space.
“He came to see the garden, and he told me what he did, and that’s so incredible because part of our garden is taking care of the earth and keeping things out of the landfill and stuff like that,” Salem said.
Siegel made his first display piece for the garden, a roughly 10-foot tall butterfly sculpture with a surrounding bench.
“It was special that it actually went to my temple,” Siegel said. “It had meaning behind it, that it was the first place I put artwork that people could really enjoy it.”
He used a plasma cutting technique, handling a highly heated torch to cut through metal for the wings.
“It is the hottest thing on the face of the earth, that’s what they call it,” Siegel said of the torch. “They call it the sun in a gun, it basically cuts through metal like butter.”
His first major project was a dragonfly sculpture he created in 2020. He then went on to create a metal heron, a dandelion and multiple holiday centric pieces, placed in Clark Botanical Garden and St. Francis Hospital and Heart Center.
“I’m very holiday-oriented,” Siegel said. “Valentine’s Day is coming up, so I’ll start making things in hearts, so the second I’m done with Valentine’s Day, I start going towards clovers for St. Patrick’s Day.”
Siegel’s interest in metal work began with his profession as an electrician, as a member of Local Union No. 3 International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, where he still works as a third generation employee.
“It was not something I wanted to do in the beginning, but I realized that it was a really great thing, the camaraderie among the men,” Siegel said. “The union is for learning and teaching things where you go through an apprenticeship, so I learned all of the different trades from being in the electrical trade.”
Siegel then tackled welding, metalworking and plasma cutting, with his cousin, Christopher Petri, teaching him how to weld. The two have remained close, with their families going fishing and to the beach together.
“A few years back, he set himself up a woodworking shop and started turning out some amazing items — everything from custom furniture to custom pens and mechanical pencils,” Petri said. “It became quite apparent that he possesses a remarkable talent.”
Siegel has donated other pieces to gardens and a library, but continues to craft pieces, based on the interests of who it’s being donated to.
“When somebody says they want something, I think about them for a while, and it has to be something having to do with them — that’s when I do something that I know that they would appreciate,” Siegel said.