WARREN, Maine — Some people inherit money, property or their grandmother’s rocking chair. Sculptor Jay Sawyer of Warren received massive steel rings from fellow artist David McLaughlin. But the bequest came with instructions — continue to turn these industrial castoffs into spherical art.

This winter, the metal worker completed a 14-foot high welded structure called “A Spirit of Its Own.” It is a tribute to his deceased friend and will be mounted at Portland International Jetport this spring.

“That was his wish. He wanted me to carry on in his absence. He wanted me to apply that and take it to a place neither of us have ever gone before,” said Sawyer, 52.

The project consumed Sawyer for years because McLaughlin, who died in 2010, set him on his path to art through his own example and encouragement.

“He was legendary locally. Meeting him helped me, gave me confidence,” said Sawyer.

Around the time of their meeting in 2004, Sawyer, who ran his own welding business, had a deepening recognition that he was more than a tradesman.

“In all reality it was almost a subconscious passion” toward something more, he said.

McLaughlin stirred that passion.

“I went out looking for him for help with a job blacksmithing, thinking it would just be a visit or two, and I’d be on my way,” Sawyer recalled. “It was one of the deepest friendships I’ve had in my entire life.”

His tribute to McLaughlin is a long time coming. Sawyer, whose spheresare in the Owls Head Transportation Museum and on the Rockland Harbor Trail, contacted the Jetport two years ago to see if the piece could join their public art collection.

“I have a new appreciation for patience,” said Sawyer.

“A Spirit of Its Own” is a sphere within a sphere elevated on a 10-foot aerodynamic pedestal.

On loan indefinitely to the Portland International Jetport from The Davistown Museum in Liberty, it is a fitting emblem of departure for all travelers.

But before it leaves the midcoast Sawyer holds a send off party Friday, March 21.

“This has been an ongoing thing. It’s been over a year since we knew it was going to the Jetport. Once it gets to the Jetport it will be a driveby situation; now you can walk right up to it, touch it and feel it.”

Sawyer is confident this piece, thrusting heavenward, would gain McLaughlin’s approval.

“I know he’d be thrilled, I feel that I’ve met his expectations.”

A send-off party at 3 p.m. until dark Friday, March 21, at Sawyer’s sculpture gallery, 131 Camden Road in Warren. For information, call 273-3948.

Kathleen Pierce

A lifelong journalist with a deep curiosity for what's next. Interested in food, culture, trends and the thrill of a good scoop. BDN features reporter based in Portland since 2013.