“To me, it’s the breaking of the rules that makes art new and that’s what I find attractive.”
When I first started creating metal art, I had absolutely no education in art, no experience in metal working, and certainly no background in blacksmithing. The first time I welded was sometime in 2000, pre 9/11. I visited a mechanics shop (where I snuck to while on a lunch break from my out of college real estate job). With absolutely zero welding experience, I walked up to a mechanic and asked him if he’d take a minute to show me how to weld. For some reason, he agreed.
He pulled out scrap metal from the trash bin and stuck a couple places together. Then, with a very brief instruction, he let me try. I was a bit nervous at first, but mostly excited. With my brief instruction and moment of observation, I lowered the welders mask and got right to it. The sparks immediately flew and after two to three seconds, I had accomplished sticking scrap metal together(albeit not terribly well). That moment of minor accomplishment added in with the sparks and the smell of the smoke had me hooked for reasons I can’t explain.
The mechanic said something to the tune of, “knock yourself out” or “feel free to practice a bit” and so naturally I did. I lunged in the trash, pulled out a few pieces of scrap metal and for some reason my brain saw a pig. I welded the pieces together and sure enough, I had created an abstract pig sculpture out of trash. Why a pig you ask? With no good reason, it seemed that’s what my brain wanted to do. There were no rules to follow, no instructor directing, it was simple creation and for the first time in my life, I was feeling direction and passion and it felt amazing.
As I continued full steam into the world of metal artistry and blacksmithing, I sought out a few very well respected people in this field. These guys were wizards with metal and when I asked them about the how they created what seemed to me as magic, they all had simple answers that boiled down to, “I needed it so I created it”. I’d ask how some blacksmith how they smithed flower petals and they’d show me some made up tool they created out of thin air. This “need it, create it” ideal appealed to me in a major way and probably because it fits my personality so well.
What I did not know about myself at that time but what has become very apparent over time is that I am the classic example of a natural non-conformist. Most artists and artisans are. I am almost literally incapable of following the herd (for better or for worse). This explains who I am and even where I’ve chosen to live. I’m certainly not bragging because It does not always work in my favor, but luckily, not conforming to that 9-5 worked out just fine. The truth is, after all of these years as an “artist” on Daufuskie Island, I simply can’t understand how the creation of something unique can happen if you follow rules. To me, it’s the breaking of the rules that makes art new and that’s what I find attractive.
So when I finally honed in on the ideal I wanted to make coastal sculptures out of sheet steel I had to make up the entire system. Photographed you’ll see a few punches that I made from 3/8 inch round stock, an ax, old ball peen hammers, an anvil and the bottom of a gas tank that I use to form the bodies of my fish, mermaids, crabs, etc. I love these rusty things so much but they are practically useless to everyone else in the “creation business”. I did not find them in a manual, I did not follow rules on how to make a mermaid, fish, crab or stingray sculpture. Simply put, I thought it, I made it.
July 12, 2019