Christmas lights gleam across the towns and villages of Cape Cod this month, but few are as unique as those in the Town of Sandwich. Thanks to Michael Magyar, an artist-sculptor and glass blower, motorists driving along Route 6A see a dazzling series of lighted figures, animals and designs outside shops, public buildings and homes.
Magyar has crafted these structures for over a decade but recently increased his production. Today there are 57 lighted images scattered through Sandwich and Barnstable into Dennis.
The concept for his steel-framed structures evolved slowly. In 1998, Magyar decided to decorate his 6A Sandwich glass shop differently at Christmas and welded a steel figure of a man blowing glass.
“People liked it but it took five years before I thought about creating figures for others,” he said. Five years later, he convinced a local friend who sold baseball cards to order a figure of Ted Williams.
Other requests began to follow in the mid 2000s. Among them are a gardener watering a plant at Scenic Roots, a red-coated colonial man outside Titcombs Book Shop, an angel for the Float Foundation, a bee for the Beehive Restaurant, and a crow for Crow Farm.
In recent years dozens of others have appeared, including a fireman at the Sandwich Fire Station, a reader with a book at the Sandwich Public Library, a codfish for the Spotted Cod Store, a rabbit for the Greenbriar Nature Center, the blue knight mascot for Sandwich High School, and this year a blue squire for the intermediate school.
“They’re a lot of fun to create and not that difficult to make,” said Magyar on Monday afternoon, as he and a friend welded long pieces of steel outside his Sandwich glass shop.
Interested clients discuss the concept with Magyar, then provide him with a drawing which he sketches upon scaled graph paper to determine the appropriate dimensions. After tracing the image on chalk on the cement floor outside his shop and checking the measurements with pieces of rope, he lays steel rods upon the chalk marks. The pieces are then welded together to complete the design.
After Magyar delivers them to the client, he or she – often with helpers — wrap the steel structure with colored lights, then using ropes provided by the artist-sculptor, fasten it to the ground with stakes.
As an art student at a St. Louis high school and even while first attending Washington University, Magyar planned to become a potter. The summer of his junior year studying in Japan, however, changed that when he was introduced to glass blowing. It was then, he said, “that I realized I loved it, and decided that was the medium I liked best.”
After a year working in a Japanese glass-blowing factory, Magyar returned to Washington University to complete his degree, then worked in Italy, arrived back in the United States, obtained an MFA at Tulane University, and again traveled to Japan.
In 1993, he and his partner, Chigoji Asahara, planned to build a ceramic shop in Boston but ultimately chose Cape Cod. One day, while driving back to Boston Magyar became so ill near Exit 2 on Route 6, that he stopped overnight at a Sandwich motel. A day later he found a house on 6A that would become his home, shop and store.
Today Magyar is widely known for his work, but insists the clients who install his steel figures are the ones who should be praised.
“I give them a lot of credit for the creative way they decorate with lights. Everyone pitches in and often there’s a potluck dinner or party for those who are helping. It’s a kind of town event for everyone to enjoy,” Magyar said. “So its dark and then all of a sudden we come across a lighted figure. It’s exciting and I think gives everyone a positive boost at this time of the year. “
By NANCY RUBIN STUART