Most readers have probably heard the saying, “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” For Judy and Lou Hagen that phrase certainly rings true. The Millsboro couple owns 2nd Time Designs — in their workshop they turn recycled metal and scraps into extraordinary creations.
If you frequently drive along Route 24, you almost certainly know exactly where 2nd Time Designs is located. Perched over the Hagens’ front yard is a metal dragon — Judy calls him Puff. Two metal M&Ms, a mermaid and a rusting biker also grace the front yard. From the minute you pull into the driveway, you know something whimsical is happening on the property.
As you make your way up the drive, you see a colorful 5-foot metal flower arrangement, a praying mantis sculpture and even a bathing metal lady whose suggestive name we can’t print and whose photo we can’t publish in a family magazine. Needless to say, the Hagens don’t take themselves too seriously — they like to have fun.
“We love to have fun. Life is too tense, too short. You’ve got to find some humor in things. That’s just me,” said Judy. “We want them to think, to use their imagination.People don’t seem to use their imagination anymore. I mean they really don’t, they don’t have to. All you have to do is open your phone and ask something and it puts out its own imagination,” she said.
The process of making their prized sculptures begins in junkyards or in old barns across Delmarva. An old plow, a discarded water heater or an old metal spoon all have the potential to be a Hagen masterpiece.The couple spends about half of their time scouring scrapyards looking for metal. The inspiration for their designs comes from the treasures they find. A hubcap can be turned into a flower, beaters from electric mixers can be turned into the center of metal daffodils.
“They come from the stuff we find, the shape of something. It tells us what it should be, or we go looking for shapes. It goes both ways. I love farm things because they’re good, heavy metals. The old farm stuff has nice shapes to it, back then they didn’t skimp like they do today,” said Judy.
Both Judy and Lou discovered their love for sculpting while they were both truck drivers. Nineteen years later, running 2nd Time Designs is now their full-time job. While the pieces they create together are breathtaking, working closely together after 50 years of marriage naturally leads to some tension. According to Judy, “He does the welding, I hold the pieces where I want them welded, we design together a lot. But, there’s a lot of yelling, you know, that’s just how we communicate.”
Their design studio and workshop is cluttered, but comfortable. Lou handles the welding in the back of the building and Judy has several rooms where she paints and places the finishing touches on their recycled metal sculptures. All of their work receives several coats of paint and is finished with a coat of automotive sealer, ensuring it stands up to hot summers and harsh winters, even in a place like Russia. The couple is most proud of the the two sculptures they have on display at the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore. Their work is also on display in Moscow, the United Kingdom and in places all over America. What they imagine and then create together is unique and their shop has even attracted national recognition on HGTV.
The Hagens said many of their customers come back over and over again — visitors to their shop either fall in love with the quirky designs and the Hagens’ colorful personalities or they don’t. Both Lou and Judy said, at the end of the day, they just want to make people smile.
“I want them to enjoy what they bought. I want them to buy a flower, put it out and every time they look at it I want them to smile. The simple fact is we don’t need this stuff for living. But, a spinning flower in your yard or a beautiful bird sitting somewhere, it will make you feel good. That’s important too. I mean you need housing, you need clothing and food and medicines and that kind of stuff, but this is stuff that makes you feel special. And I like that,” Judy said.
For more information about 2nd Time Designs, please call Judy and Lou at 302-945-3988 or visit www.2ndtimedesigns.com.
Check out the video below to see Lou and Judy's shop, as well as some of their creative creations!