I fell in love with metal when I found out that using a torch could cut, bend, distort and weld metal. Until that point, I saw metal as immovable, unbendable, unbreakable, unchangeable and permanent. I thought metal just was…Had never been or would ever be anything else.
This first contact happened when I was in Art School. The school I attended had a woodworking shop and a metal shop. The students were expected to spend half the school year in the wood shop and the other half working with metal. I chose to start in the metal shop. The attraction I felt for steel, the flames, the hammering, the noise, the possibilities and the sturdiness of the end product was too powerful. I could no longer see limits to my creativity. After this first contact, I stopped following directives for my projects in Art School. I would spend hours (days) going through the scrap metal bin, bending, welding and painting sculptures. I made two projects out of wood in that last year in Art School. One was mandatory, an artist’s carry case. The other project was supposed to be a small animal sculpture. Instead of this, I made a colourful, wooden coffin. I laid in it for hours, waiting for my class to begin and for the teacher to go around the room judging everyone’s sculptures. It seemed like an eternity before she finally opened the lid to the coffin and discover my mock dead body inside… I had been left for last because the teacher thought I was absent. She was not terribly impressed as this was not within the parameters of the project. Needless to say, my grade was not spectacular. This was the end of my interest in following directives and the beginning of my insubordination.
I had decided by then that being an artist had nothing to do with a degree but had everything to do with being creative and free. When I left Art School, I also left Québec and decided to go travelling to find true freedom.
After a few months, I landed in a small community on the West Coast. There, I started working for a metal artist. He used old water tank to make garden decorations. It was a great experience. I learned a lot about being a welder in a small community. I only worked there for a few months but while I was there, I had the opportunity to make some of my own art creations. These were mostly candle-holders made with whatever scrap metal I found at the free store. The artist I worked for took some pieces I had made with him to one of his art shows. There were 5 or 6 candle-holders among his art pieces. The only pieces that sold were the ones I had made and unfortunately, after that, the artist did not contact me again.
This was a blessing in disguise because I found out I was pregnant.
After a 3-year hiatus from working and focusing on being a mother, I decided to become a professional welder. I wanted to learn to make beautiful and strong welds and also explore the limitations of metal.
I am still learning…
I have recently discovered the exciting possibilities of getting my hand drawn designs cut on a CNC plasma table (a machine that cuts shapes out of flat metal plate from a computer-generated image with a laser, a water jet, a plasma torch or a oxy-acetylene torch). The fluidity of the cuts and the perfect edges of the shapes make it possible for my creativity to be transferred from paper to a Computer Numerical Controlled metal cutting table and for the same design to be repeated perfectly as often as is needed. This process involves scanning my drawing and getting the digital file converted into vectors so that the computer can transfer the lines into shapes and cut them out of plate. This is the process I used to cut out the tree for this gate.
I also used this process to get a thousand small leaves cut out of plate for future gates and arbours. This way, I will not have to spend as much time grinding each piece to get a smooth, beautiful rounded shape.
One of the by-products of these CNC cut plates look like this.
Lately, my focus has been on making practical, ornamental pieces.
But I hope to be able to branch out more into Art for art’s sake. After 15 years of mostly industrial welding, reconnecting with my inner artist is proving to be a longer process than I had anticipated. I just need to let go of the constraints I have imposed on myself to be a great structural fabricator and just start putting random things together for no other reason than to create beautiful and interesting things that don’t necessarily serve a purpose other than being ornamental.