HICKORY, N.C. -- It takes some sleuthing to find Mark Looper's "masterpiece".
It's not out in public for all to see; in fact, it's located in the woods behind a house at the end of a quiet Hickory cul-de-sac.
This "masterpiece" is hiding in plain sight; a metal handrail that looks like it sprouted out of nature.
As the handrail winds down this house's hilly backyard, trees branch out from the rail, complete with colorful leaves and little animals -- all of it is made of metal.
"I created this," Looper said in amazement. "That's the funnest part about this."
Just as the handrail zig-zags down the hill, Mark Looper's" life has been equally long and winding.
"There's a path somewhere that you're going to get led on," Looper said.
His path led him to careers in logging and welding.
He recalled pitying the small, dying trees his fellow loggers would neglect.
"It has super character to it," he said.
He remembered admiring the scrap metal his co-workers tossed away.
"I told them, someday i'd built a masterpiece," Looper said. "I got a lot of ridicule, and a lot of laughs"
After losing his job, Looper dealt with what he described as a lot of negative feelings about the new path he was thrusted on.
"I was given a different path, and I'm trying to accept that path," Looper said. "Turn the negative into something positive."
He decided to turn the scrap metal he collected and his years of experience in the woods into artwork.
He built his first project in his driveway: a metal gate resembling a tree.
Word quickly spread of his skills which led to more projects and eventually, his handrail masterpiece.
He lives for the smiles of his clients once they see his finished work.
"It tickles me to death," he said.
Looper has more projects in the works, including wine racks and more metal.
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