WEYMOUTH, Mass. — Bob Stella is a self-taught painter.
“It’s a dying art. There’s not many people doing it anymore, it’s all done on computers now,” he said.
Stella makes the shields that go on firefighters’ helmets in his tiny Weymouth workshop and is one of the most renowned artists in his industry.
“I started in 1988 and just took off from word of mouth. Now it’s a monster I can’t kill. I do them all over the country,” he said.
Stella is the official shield maker for several big fire departments across the country, including in Boston and New York City.
“Here’s a shield in New York City at a big, major catastrophe and it’s made by a guy sitting in Weymouth,” Stella said.
He delicately paints each shield and makes about 20 per week. Each shield is unique, each has a story. One of the most touching shields Stella has ever made was for the New York City Fire Chief shortly after 9/11.
“I put a little dalmatian dog on top of it. A sad dalmatian with the Twin Towers in the background, and he wrote me a nice letter back saying he really appreciated it,” Stella said.
Another memorable shield was the one Stella made for Worcester native Denis Leary for his hit tv show, “Rescue Me.”
“You can see it’s signed by the cast,” he said.
Last year Stella painted more than 1,000 shields and continues to be flooded with requests from all over the world.
“If you order a shield today, it’s going to take 10 weeks to get it to you. That’s how busy I am,” he said.
Stella has designed helmet shields for firefighters in all 50 states and in many countries in Europe and South America. He’s also made custom fire shields for several presidents.
To see more of Stella’s work, click here.