Do you ever tell people “I’ve always wanted to do _____!” I know I have. There’s probably a list a mile long of things I’ve rattled off that I wanted to do or learn. One of those things, probably the most often mentioned, over the course of a couple decades, has been welding. I’m not sure when I decided I wanted to learn, sometime after my 7th grade shop class I’m sure. Possibly it wasn’t until after I saw Flashdance for the first time. I just know I found myself saying “I’ve always wanted to learn to weld.”
So, when the Flint Hills requested that I move there and become a sculptor, I realized it was time to stop wanting and start actually doing. I started looking at all of the different colleges in the area that offered welding classes and trying to decide when to take them. And, that’s when I met Vincent. We were introduced by a mutual friend and after we talked for a while, he invited me to his shop for some welding lessons.
Now, in the past, I would have thought he was just being polite, but didn’t really want me to take him up on it. Why would someone really offer that to a complete stranger? And, to me of all people. This was my struggle with worthiness. But, I wouldn’t let me talk myself out taking him up on the offer.
On Wednesday, I arrived at his shop and we talked about the different kinds of welding, what my goal was with welding. He explained that what he does is actually brazing, not welding. Brazing can join dissimilar metals, by using a filler metal, where welding joins similar metals. He then gave me a short lesson in brazing, how to heat the metal properly and create a nice bead.
He asked me if I wanted to come back the next week and give it a try. Uh… yeah! And, for the next several weeks, there I was every Wednesday with something new to work on. The first two projects were meant to be picture frames. They’re frame-ish…
Then Vincent said he’d like to see me build a cube. So, I built a cube. It was the first piece I really liked.
From there, I started just buying stuff from the scrap bin at the metal shop. I didn’t know what I would find and it wasn’t until I laid everything out on the welding table each week that I started to have a sense of how the individual pieces would come together into one piece. I made sure each week that I had a new challenge with the brazing. Figuring out how to use the magnets to hold things at odd angles so they could be worked on, using different gauges of metal.
It would seem that I have quite a knack for the craft. After just 5 weeks/15 hours of working under Vincent’s tutelage, he informed me that I had graduated and he felt I could be left to do the brazing mostly unsupervised. Wait, what? I’m not ready for that, am I? (Again with the self doubt!)
When I went in to start my most recent piece, the shop was busy and I was forced to get started on my own. I was really excited to get started on this piece, I had been inspired by a painting and could hardly wait to see how it turned out. I was nearly done before Vincent had a chance to check in on me. Here is his Instagram post about the piece…
I’m completely in love with this piece. The only thing I would change about it is it’s size. I feel that it should be much, much bigger.
It has been far too long since I have gotten my hands dirty making art. I hadn’t realized how much I missed having my hands in my artwork, whether it’s a darkroom, ceramics or now, metal work. I’m hooked again and am now enrolled in classes at my local community college, both in welding and ceramics. I can hardly wait to get started!