Tuesday, 11 December 2018 21:04

Car Repairs and Recycled Art: Norm LaRock Is an Auto Master

Written by Ken Picard, Seven Days
Norm LaRock Norm LaRock James Buck



"This is a souped-up witch's broom---like in Harry Potter," he said, pointing to a half-finished piece that will ultimately stand about 5 feet tall. The sculpture incorporates a hodge-podge of salvaged metal parts, including a chunk of a mini bike frame, a chrome muffler off a Harley-Davidson, a rusty sickle, the gear shifter from an old tractor and a pair of springs from a car suspension.


Across the garage, a table held the top half of a robot that LaRock had welded together using a sap bucket for its head. Nearby sat a snapping turtle that he was turning into a boot scrape. Beside that stood a miniature version of the metal giraffe out front that, LaRock suggested, could serve as a jewelry holder. Stacked in one corner were two auger blades large enough to sink telephone poles. LaRock said he plans to use them as the legs of a 15-foot-tall robot.


He said of art making: "It's fun because I get away from everything when I'm doing this, know what I mean? When your mind's on this, you're not worrying about bills or whatever."


LaRock's weathered hands are evidence of the decades he's spent working with metal. A few months ago, the 55-year-old had surgery on both wrists to correct years of carpal tunnel syndrome.


"I can crush cans now!" he joked.


Though making sculpture came later, LaRock was virtually born into auto body work. He grew up on North Street in Burlington's Old North End, where his uncle and father ran a repair shop in the backyard.


"When I was 12 years old, I helped [my dad] restore a Model A from the ground up," LaRock recalled.


By 14, he was doing "practically everything" in the family's auto business. Though he dropped out of school at a young age, his parents and uncle were strict enough with him and his cousin to keep the boys out of trouble, he noted.


"Neither one of us has ever been to jail or nothing. Clean records," LaRock said, nodding toward the Chittenden Regional Correctional Facility directly across the road. "Thank God for our parents."

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