- The top of a church steeple peeks over the roof of the ivy-covered greenhouse at Tom and Jerri Morin’s Los Cerillos, N.M., home. Credit: Chris Corrie.
The Diamond T Hacienda, the double-adobe home of Tom and Jerri Morin in the village of Los Cerrillos, N.M., stands as a perfect reflection of the couple’s love of art, culture and history. Built more than a century ago as a residence and saloon, the property shape-shifted over the years into a dance hall, undertaker’s parlor, grocery store and movie theater. By the time the Morins discovered it in 1993, however, it had devolved into a sorry and abandoned wreck—the perfect starting point, they concluded, for what turned into an ambitious and highly imaginative 10-year renovation.
Innovative thinking comes as naturally to Tom as breathing. In addition to more than 30 years of teaching at prestigious art schools, he’s won a long list of awards for his sculpture. In the early years he used more traditional materials for his craft—aluminum, bronze and iron. But before long, he says, “I began looking for something outside the ordinary that could transcend its previous life.” About 27 years ago, he discovered a unique product that has been the backbone of his artwork ever since: used sanding belts and discs.
Each belt is a fresh discovery, its distinctive coloration or pattern inspiring a design. “I devised a method to cut apart and veneer pieces of these belts onto a kiln-dried wood armature,” he continues. “The belts, some as large as fifty-four inches wide, retain sanding patterns as well as the resin colors of the exotic woods, pewter or aluminum they’d been used on. They reflect the earth colors and meditative qualities of the high desert that particularly appeal to me.”