The bigger the better for this sculptor/teacher

Jake riding “Reyes Horse.” Taken at Liberty High School, December 21, 2022. Installed at a client’s backyard in the Folsom area. (Contributed photo)

John NakanishiCONTRA COSTA COUNTY, CA (Oct. 27, 2023) — If you ever see a giant metal sculpture of a bug, you might be looking at the work of Jake Edwards.

The longtime East Bay artist’s sculptures are impressive and large. Brightly colored finishes, weather-worn steel and metallic alloys capture your eye. Often with the use of recycled items, such as mufflers, his mixed-media sculptures take you into a fantastic, surrealistic world of giant creatures.

Edwards has been teaching art at Liberty High School in Brentwood for 19 years. His students benefit from seeing how he builds his large sculptures as well as getting his help to produce their own. Their collaborative works-in-progress fill the classroom. The grounds hold many student-created mosaic tile sculptures. There’s a working barbecue dragon, with smoke issuing out of its nostrils when the grill is going.

As part of the high school’s Public Art and Design Academy, Edwards mentors interested seniors on how to apply for public art projects with the city. In early 2024, Edwards and his students plan on building a massive sculpture somewhere in Brentwood.

On display

Edwards had always wanted to show his art. It finally happened after 11 years as a teacher. He started teaching in the Youth Empowerment Program, an after-school program for kids. At the end of that program, the Delta Art Gallery in Brentwood displayed his student’s work, and he realized he could submit some of his own.

His first entry was a giant dragonfly, which opened the gallery world to the artist. Since that first exhibit, he has received invitations to show his work in many galleries, from the Bay Area to Southern California.

On a drive to Southern California to deliver a sculpture, he stopped by Ricardo Breceda’s Art Gallery & Sculpture Garden in Aguanga. He met the artist and work crew, and they were impressed by his sculpture. The encouraging comments from Breceda, his crew, other admiring art lovers and from honking drivers as they noticed his massive sculpture enroute gave him confidence to create more.

“I’m onto something here,” Edwards recalls thinking. “I’m going to keep making crazier stuff.”


Edwards enjoys experimenting with materials and techniques. He sculpted a grasshopper two years ago, but recently remade it with eyes that light up – a student’s suggestion.

“I like trying to figure out new stuff, not do the same thing over and over,” says Edwards.

Even when a design becomes a bestseller, such as the 25 to 30 praying mantis sculptures he has sold in the last two years, he is always making improvements in the paint job and design details. “When I look back on when I first started them, I’ve totally evolved.”

Edwards prefers to use his time creating rather than planning a project. “I generally just think about it and start it. Once I start it, I don’t stop,” he notes.

One horse project took him three months to build, working from 4 a.m. until breakfast, then several more hours after school and on weekends. At a certain point into a huge project, he says, “I’m pumped to go work on it. I’ll even dream about it sometimes.”

Hard at work

Edwards is a prolific artist, creating four or five massive sculptures a year. It took him two months to complete a tiger statue for the Primavera Spring Art Show in Danville. Edwards was also a featured artist at the summer’s Sculpture in the Garden exhibit at the Ruth Bancroft Garden in Walnut Creek.

For now, you can visit his exhibits at the Blackhawk Gallery in Danville and the JOR Fine Art Gallery in Clayton. Coming soon, he will complete his site installation at the Gregangelo Museum, an immersive art experience in San Francisco.

For more information, email, call 916-300-6072 or see his work on Instagram @edwards174.

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John Nakanishi
John Nakanishi

John Nakanishi is treasurer of The Concord Art Association. He is an acrylic painter and a ceramic artist. When John isn’t creating art, he coaches soccer for East Bay Eclipse, a competitive soccer club based in Moraga. He is also an avid trail runner, enjoying runs from 5 miles to 50K.