Back in February, I took a welding class focused on making objects of art. Although the techniques for industrial welding are the same, this class was specifically about making art. It included choosing materials, shaping and texturing metal pieces plus finishing techniques such as sandblasting, painting and etching.
I found the class through the Leisure Learning Unlimited center (http://www.llu.com) here in Houston, an adult, extended learning school that offers all kinds of classes – photography, dancing, cooking, learning harmonica, travel writing, kayaking and all sorts of stuff that you’ve always wanted to learn but didn’t know where to start.
All classes are taught by experts in their field. Our class was taught by John Barber (http://johnbarberstudios.com), a successful marine-life, metal artist. John patiently introduced all of us beginners to the equipment, the tools and safe practices in the workshop. There were 3 gals and 3 guys in our class. None of us had any previous experience.
I can’t say that a fish was what I would have chosen to make (I prefer figures and human bodies), but John’s an expert regarding things that come from the water. He creates amazing things like fish, shrimp, stingrays and crabs. By learning to make his marine-life pieces, we were going to learn all the techniques of cutting with the plasma cutter, shaping and hammering the metal, then welding, brazing and finishing our pieces. So, I chose a parrotfish and began the process. We met on Tuesday and Wednesday nights for 2 hours and after 2 weeks, we had our finished piece of art.
I loved this class. One of the challenges that really appeals to me is having to figure out how to cut and piece together the thing that you’re making. Look at this shrimp trophy that John was working on. He had to cut each segment of the shrimp out, figure out how to make the antennae and eyeballs, how to mount it on a wood block and how to paint the speckles on it so it looks realistic. It’s like origami – folding and unfolding paper until he had a working template. I love problem solving to make art. I do the same in photography often – solving a less than perfect situation to end up with a fabulous shot.
I have been wanting to learn to weld for a long time and this class covered everything I’d need to continue on my own. I have several projects that I’d like to try but I hate to give up my garage space for the plasma cutter, the air compressor, the MIG welder, the anvil, the clamps, the workbench and everything else I’d need. I learned that welding equipment is pretty expensive ($2000 just to get started!) and most folks don’t rent out welding equipment. It’s too fragile and too expensive. So for now, I’m happy I learned it and I’ll keep it on the back burner until I dive into it sometime in the future.
The total cost of the course was a little over $200. That included instruction, materials, gloves and shield. Be sure to visit John’s webpage. I’ll put the link here again.