Moon-Sun Cactus & Koi Gardens’ fair is a prickly partnership between gardeners and artists

The third annual Cactus Show and Art Fair at Moon-Sun Cactus & Koi Gardens, 6430 McGill Ave., is set to bring artists and gardeners together to share their interests with the public April 20 and 21.

“We’re bringing in mostly local artists,” said Moon-Sun owner Patrick Helfrich. “We’ll also have Master Gardeners giving free advice, and the Cactus and Succulent Society of Southern Nevada with their show plants on display that have been judged and are marked with ribbons.”

Moon-Sun staff member Sam Johnson said, “We’ve got an interesting collection of artists coming out. We have sculptors, potters, a photographer and an artist who creates petroglyph reproductions. There will be jewelry there, also.”

Dave Thompson plans a short jaunt down the street to show his work.

“It’s very convenient,” Thompson said. “Some of my work, including some of my larger pieces, are here all the time. That gives me room back in my shed to work on new ones.”

Thompson creates outdoor sculptures from recycled material.

“I’m always on the lookout for the right kind of thing to build with,” he said. “Sometimes I’ll see a piece of scrap and think, ‘That looks like an elephant’s trunk. Now I just have to find the rest of the elephant.’ ”

The process can take years as he sorts through scrap metal, keeping an eye out for parts he wants to work with, mentally combining parts before he welds them together . No two pieces are identical, and even when he creates a similar work, the varying materials and arrangement give each one a unique look.

“If I’m making a rabbit or something, I’ll end up putting the ears in a different position or turning a piece one way or the other so they all have their own personality,” Thompson said.

He gets his raw materials from discarded building material, auctions and by keeping his eyes open as he travels, sometimes finding the perfect piece illegally discarded on a desert road. He literally turns trash to treasure, building art from old washing machines, rusted jacks and railroad spikes.

“The actual work of putting things together is pretty quick,” Thompson said. “I spend most of the time getting material, sorting it and working it out in my head.”

Rather then sculpting, bending and carving materials to create his vision , Thompson treats the material as a collaborative partner, letting it take the work in the direction most natural for it.

He recalled an early work in which he was creating a cow. He had it mostly together but needed a piece for the neck.

“It was an early piece, and it was a very simple pose, just a cow standing on four legs, and I meant to have it just looking forward,” Thompson said. “Then I found this piece of metal, and when I turned it right it fit snug against the body, but that turned the cows head up and to the side. It was a much more interesting look, so I put it all together like that.”

Recently, Thompson has taken to adding ceramics to some his pieces, drilling carefully through cups, plates and bowls to create flowers and other delicate looking pieces.

“It can be a challenge,” Thompson said. “I use a special drill, but sometimes, just as I break through the bottom, the tension breaks and peeesh! It breaks.”

His work ranges in size from garden accents under a foot tall to a fire-breathing dragon with a 21-foot wingspan. Piece prices start at $25 and go up to a few thousand dollars.

Thompson has displayed his work in gallery shows and exhibits from libraries to the Springs Preserve. To see more of his work, visit

The Cactus Show and Art Fair is scheduled from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. April 20 and 21. Admission is free. Moon-Sun is open from 8 a.m. to
5:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday. For details, visit or call 702-645-2032.

Contact Sunrise/Whitney View reporter F. Andrew Taylor at or 702-380-4532.

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