Milford man's rock sculptures on brief display at beaches, then gone forever

Steve Warzel builds short lived rock sculptures, demolished as the high tide rolls in, at Anchor Beach in Milford, Conn. on Thursday, December 29, 2022.
Steve Warzel builds short lived rock sculptures, demolished as the high tide rolls in, at Anchor Beach in Milford, Conn. on Thursday, December 29, 2022. Brian A. Pounds/Hearst Connecticut Media
Steven Warzel's most recent rock formation was inspried by the Trojan Horse.

Steven Warzel's most recent rock formation was inspried by the Trojan Horse.

Steven Warzel/Contributed
Steve Warzel builds short lived rock sculptures, demolished as the high tide rolls in, at Anchor Beach in Milford, Conn. on Thursday, December 29, 2022; Steven Warzel's most recent rock formation was inspried by the Trojan Horse. (Photos: Brian A. Pounds/Hearst Connecticut Media; Steven Warzel/Contributed)

MILFORD — What started as a fun hobby of making rock sculptures at the beach turned into a passion for one city resident during the COVID-19 pandemic.

And Steve Warzel hasn't stopped sculpting since.

"I used to do sand sculptures, then about nine years ago, I started seeing people do rock balancing, and I started doing that, and it progressed from there," he said.

Steven Warzel's most recent rock formation was inspried by the Trojan Horse.

Steven Warzel's most recent rock formation was inspried by the Trojan Horse.

Steven Warzel/Contributed

Warzel said he's always been artistic, from drawing to making sand sculptures, but rock sculpting came to him later in his life.

"I've had some people say to me, you missed your calling, but I don't think I missed it. I think it showed up when it was supposed to," he said. "I'm 56 years old, and I love that I'm doing it now." 

"I stepped my sculpting up during COVID because there was nothing else to do," Warzel added. "I'm out there by myself, with no one around, and I had nothing but time because I was off work for a while, and it kept me sane during that time."

Steven Warzel's rock formation.

Steven Warzel's rock formation.

Steven Warzel/Contributed

As Warzel got better at rock balancing, he challenged himself to do more challenging rock formations.

"It just became an obsession. It just became something that I really love doing," he said

When people ask him where he gets his inspiration for the sculptures, he tells them he's had various influences.

Steve Warzel builds short lived rock sculptures, demolished as the high tide rolls in, at Anchor Beach in Milford, Conn. on Thursday, December 29, 2022.
Steve Warzel builds short lived rock sculptures, demolished as the high tide rolls in, at Anchor Beach in Milford, Conn. on Thursday, December 29, 2022.Brian A. Pounds/Hearst Connecticut Media

"I always tell everybody this is the result of me growing up with Lord of The Rings, Marvel Comics and Led Zeppelin music," he said. "That's what I grew up on, and this is how I express it."

Warzel likes to do his sculptures on Anchor Beach and Silver Sands Beach.

"You have to time it right with the tides, and hopefully, the weather is not too cold," he said. "Also, you have to find the right rocks. I go to these beaches because that's where the rocks are, but I still have to search around to find the right rocks for the sculpture."

One of Steven Warzel's rock formations depicting a castle.

One of Steven Warzel's rock formations depicting a castle.

Steven Warzel/Contributed
Steven Warzel started to do more complicated rock formations.

Steven Warzel started to do more complicated rock formations.

Steven Warzel/Contributed

There is some compromise that happens when working with rocks, stated Warzel.

"There's the picture you have in your head, then there's what the rocks will let you do, and then there are the physical limitations," he said.

As the years went by, Warzel said he started challenging himself to start using more arches in his sculptures, and one of his sculptures was a breakthrough for him.

"About two months ago, I was starting to figure out how to build a horse with the rock sculptures," he said. "I was actually watching the movie 'Troy' and thought it would be a good challenge to make a sculpture of the Trojan horse."

Steven Warzel said he was inspired by Lord of The Rings growing up and rock formations is how he expreses it.

Steven Warzel said he was inspired by Lord of The Rings growing up and rock formations is how he expreses it.

Steven Warzel/Contributed
At the start of his journey, Steven Warzel was balancing rocks.

At the start of his journey, Steven Warzel was balancing rocks.

Steven Warzel/Contributed

There was a lot of trial and error when he was building the Trojan horse, and the sculpture fell down a couple of times, but he never gave up.

"That was the most complicated sculpture I've done yet, especially the head," he said. "When you have an overhang of rocks, it's tricky."

"But to me, the horse was a big step up," Warzel added. "I hit another level there, and my confidence grew because now I can build off it."

The horse rock sculpture isn't standing anymore, but Warzel said that makes it more special.

"None of the sculptures stay up. They are all temporary," he said. "Many people ask me if it drives me crazy to put all the work into something for it not to last, but I like that aspect of it. It has a life span of its own, and then nature takes it back. They all go away with the tide, some people see it, and some don't, which makes it more special because people often walk by permanent artworks and don't appreciate them. So when it's temporary, they pay more attention to it."