Creating sculptures helps Gary Hover adapt to life with Parkinson's


It takes longer to make the Hoveyware sculptures than it used to.

Nevertheless, in the last two years, Gary Hovey has crafted some of his favorite pieces, such as the gorilla family, which entailed three months of welding thousands of pieces of stainless-steel flatware. If he didn’t have Parkinson’s disease, it would been done in a month.

“It has steadily become more challenging to produce, so I adapt,’ he said.

Hovey, 54, works in a building adjacent to the home he shares with his wife, Tonnie, and their four young-adult children who come and go, in New Knoxville, Ohio, about 100 miles southwest of Toledo. His recent exhibit at the American Gallery in Sylvania was successful.

“We made several sales and gained a few friends,” Hovey said in an interview done via e-mail. “Having to think about the answer and think about how to speak at the same time is rough,” he explained. “My brain doesn’t tell my body how to move anymore. I have to think how to walk, I have to think how to move my hands, I have to think just to talk.”

PHOTO GALLERY: The healing power of creating art

He was drawn to sculpture in high school, especially when he saw a sculpture made of car-bumpers.

“And I got this clear-mind picture that this type of sculpture could be made out of spoons — then they would be small enough that people could have them in their homes. I did not know how to weld nor did I have plans to.”

That changed when he was in his 20s and got a job making bronze sculptures at a fine-art foundry.

“I was the only one working there without a degree in art. I learned how to weld and the sparks were not so bad. I then worked for a year in Washington, D.C. as a traveling welder.”

Meanwhile, he and Tonnie completed a Bible-based leadership program of The Way International, and in 1986, were hired at its New Knoxville headquarters; she as a graphic artist, he as a heavy-equipment operator, welder, and maintenance supervisor. He oversaw creation of a life-sized bronze rendering of The Way’s founder, Victor Paul Wierwille.

The Hoveys were busy with work and children in 1994 when he was diagnosed with early-onset Parkinson’s disease, a neurodegenerative brain disorder that progresses slowly.

“Bummer news, but what are you going to do? Keep on living,” he said. “But I couldn’t put my life on hold for a disease. I decided to trust God to take care of us and forge ahead.”

When staff at The Way planned an art show in 2004, he had a go at spoon sculptures.

“At first I wasn’t sure it was art, maybe it was just goofy.” Crafting them at his best friend’s shop, they were well received. He called them Hoveyware and his father supplied him with utensils purchased at flea markets and garage sales.

When it became unsafe for him to drive, friends moved his workshop to 20 feet from his front door.

“I work when I’m able to move. Family and friends carry sculptures for me. But I still get to make them. I don’t think the quality has suffered, but it does take longer to make them.”

Art enriches him on several levels. “It helps financially support my family and it is therapy for me. It has allowed me to meet many wonderful people.”

See more of his work at