SAN ANTONIO, TX – Far off the beaten path in Fredericksburg is a home that is a wonder all in itself. The man who lives there, Jonas Perkins, also has left quite a few people amazed with his artwork over the years.
“I just wanted to be an artist,” Perkins said one day recently, standing inside the home which he built himself. "My mom was a ceramics teacher. One day she handed me a piece of clay. I picked up that piece of clay and I started doodling. It came out to look like my friend. "
His parents helped to nurture his talent by working difficult jobs to send him to private school. His mother scrubbed floors in a mental hospital, while his father worked as a Pullman porter.
Perkins’ own artwork eventually helped him get into the prestigious Art Institute of Chicago. He proudly showed off the piece –a wooden bust of a woman– that earned him entry into the school.
"I carved that out of a piece of black walnut with a screwdriver, and then I polished it with glass," he said.
Since those days, Perkins has carved out a career and earned the admiration of people around the world.
“There’s Willie (Nelson), the red-headed stranger,” he said, pointing to one of his many sculptures inside his art studio.
Perkins, who once worked as an artist-in-residence for the city of San Antonio, has been hired to create images of a long list of celebrities, politicians and other well-known people.
His sculptures also are on display in public places throughout this area and beyond. Among other things, he sculpted the larger-than-life Korean War memorial in San Antonio’s Municipal Plaza.
These days, though, a project closer to home occupies a great deal of his time. It’s his home, itself, which he built entirely from donated and recycled materials.
For his roof, Perkins lifted up a number of satellite dishes onto poles. Some have windows cut into them which act as skylights.
The walls of his home are completely handmade from his own design.
"It's put together just with Styrofoam and bottles on a steel frame,” Perkins said, showing how he constructed them.
He also grows his own vegetables in a mini biosphere, as well as in an outdoor garden which is set up to water itself.
Perkins said the home is a work in progress, one that is always changing.
His contributions to the art world, however, are permanent. At 70 years old, though, this serious artist tries not to take his life too seriously.
"When it's time to let go of this, I have nothing to say,” Perkins said. “All the identity that I had as a sculptor guy is all let go of. "