NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — When Broadway closed its doors, more than 100,000 people suddenly had to look for work.
During the pause, one engineer behind the scenes had to get creative. He’s the focus of this week’s Snapshot New York with Steve Overmyer.READ MORE: Snapshot NY: Six-Time Olympic Fencer Peter Westbrook Helps Make 'A Lily-White Sport' More Inclusive
In a workshop full of iron and steel, an artist finds his form of expression.
“I didn’t think of it as art when I started. I just thought of it as something to do,” said Jesse Hancox.
Hancox spent his career as a lighting technician on Broadway. But when it went dark, he had an idea.
“My grandmother’s spinach ball recipe that everyone seems to love. I’m like, ‘Oh, there’s something new and different. Maybe I could sell spinach balls,'” he said. “Seriously!”
Hancox put his grandma’s spinach balls idea on the back burner because his wife, Tiffany, stumbled on something different.
She saw a steampunk lamp for sale for $600.
“I felt like I could probably do that and step it up a little bit,” Hancox said.
So, he went to work with a wrench and pipes to create a personalized gift for his wife.
“It’s the challenge of finding personality from pipes and fittings,” he said.
The result wasn’t just a lamp. It became a beacon to his future.READ MORE: Snapshot NY: New Jersey Mason Johnny Langeraap Set To Compete In Bricklayer 500 World Championship In Las Vegas
“This was just so fun. And it just brought a nice smile,” Tiffany Hancox said. “Like life, happiness… light, to sort of a dark situation.”
“Do you have a name for the little guy?” Overmyer asked Jesse.
“It’s Louie. Louie Lamp,” he said. “Every piece is Louie doing different activities.”
After sharing the photo on social media, everyone wanted a Louie Lamp.
“That was the moment that I was like, ‘Oh my God, this is really art.’ And I didn’t think of myself as an artist in any way,” he said.
Since then, he’s created 29 personalized pieces of steampunk art, made popular in science fiction.
It’s basically modern technology using 19th century industrial machinery. It’s like upcycling everyday materials.
“Like an old 1950’s chainsaw, that is now going to be a lawnmower for a lamp,” Hancox said. “That’s exciting. It lives… front and center and living as something else is kind of neat.”
“It almost forces you to look at the world differently,” said Overmyer.
“As much as I reinvented myself, it’s like reinventing these parts,” Hancox said.
Like a modern day Geppetto, he takes inanimate materials and breathes life into them. A second career created from taking a chance.MORE NEWS: Snapshot NY: South Bronx Native Hopes After-School Program Inspires Students To Graduate, Change Perception Of Neighborhood
“It’s opening yourself up to something new and stepping up to that challenge,” Hancox said. “I didn’t feel like an artist, but I guess I kind of do now.”