Sam Ferrera covets the metal objects that are in your garage gathering dust.
The Toronto artist and musician, who transforms random metal bits into wild creatures and hanging mobiles, treasures railroad spikes, pitchforks, antique shears, guitar strings and giant bolts.
"They're priceless," he said.
He needs more in order to fill his annual Christmas show next month, a 14-year tradition that packs the Cameron House with buyers and fans.
That's because two months ago, his precious junk -- a decade worth of finds plucked from construction sites and dumps -- burned.
In the early hours of Sept. 22, a five-alarm blaze gutted 1025 Dupont St., where Mr. Ferrera and five other artists kept studios. It destroyed almost everything in the century-old building: thousands of dollars in artwork, paint tubes, easels, torches, soldering irons and saws. No one had insurance.
At the time, Mr. Ferrera, had created about a third of the pieces he planned to sell at his 14th annual Christmas show, which over the years has become a highly anticipated event.
"You get here early," said Ray Ivey, a long-time Cameron House employee.
"It's packed. And things sell like, whoosh -- gone. You see red dots all up over the wall. Sold."
Losing his artwork was tough, Mr. Ferrera said this week. Losing the junk he needed to create more art was worse.
"You can't replace that stuff," Mr. Ferrera said.
At least, that's what he thought in September.
Screamin' Sam Ferrera, an icon of the 1980s punk rock scene who still plays regular shows, learned that his studio was burning while he was playing a gig downtown. He hopped into a cab, and watched the inferno light up the corner of Dupont Street and Westmoreland Avenue.
At 4 a.m., he left a voicemail message for John Coburn, a painter who split the first floor's $900-a-month rent with Mr. Ferrera and cabinet maker David Tate.
"Don't worry about the rent any more because the whole thing is burnt down to the ground," he said. "Sorry guy, it's gone."
The Ontario Fire Marshal's office has still not determined the cause of the blaze, which began next door.
For two months, the artists have scrambled independently to rebuild. Friends and clients have held fundraisers. This week, Mr. Coburn raised $11,000 at a benefit selling Christmas cards of his sketches of London, New York, Toronto and Paris.
"I really, really miss my little domain," said Mr. Coburn, who is on the hunt for an affordable space.
Painter Ernesto Manera, who was living and working with two others on the second floor, is now in a Richmond Street studio, donated rent-free until January.
"The worst thing was that I felt I lost a limb. And that limb was my thought process, because it was so sudden," Mr. Manera said.
Two weeks after the fire, Mr. Ferrera went to the cottage to relieve some stress.
When he returned, his kitchen was mainly full of trash, but there were some gems. After that, the junk came pouring in. One friend mailed out giant screws normally used in Vancouver's sewers. Outside his door one day, he found a tub of old gears, along with an anonymous note: "For Sam."
"I knew I had friends, but not that many," he said.
Serge Fortin of Iron Age Design is sharing his studio space, across the street from the fire site, rent-free until December.
"He would do it for me," Mr. Fortin said.
Every afternoon, Mr. Ferrera, who is not a morning person, heads up the shabby stairs to work. He doesn't rush.
"I've got to like every piece, otherwise I won't show it. I'll just throw it in the scrap bin where it came from."
So far, he's made about 45 dainty bugs; their bodies are silver-plated spoons, their antennae are guitar strings. Out of hammer heads, he's created two puppy-like creatures.
It's less than a quarter of what he regularly shows. But on Dec. 9, he'll hang up his work at Cameron House.
"I've got what, three weeks?" he said of the time until the opening. And then, after a long pause, he laughed. "All I can do is try."