Monday, March 24, 2008

Metal yards - starting with junk

Just as wood comes in shapes so does steel. There are only six; bar, rod (square and round), tube, pipe, plate, and sheet. That's it. When I was a beginning wood sculptor, I would find interesting branches and roots, and then combine them with machine cut wood or plywood to make a sculpture. Eventually my technique improved so I could do whatever I wanted. My method evolved from starting with a branch to visualizing the finished piece and then making it.

When I first started to make welded sculpture I barely could weld two pieces of steel together. I could not 'see' a finished piece in my head and fabricate it. I started visiting junk yards, looking for odd pieces of steel in the same way I looked for branches and roots. To the chagrin of my neighbor, I filled my driveway with junk metal so I would always have an interesting piece to kick start the creative process.

My favorite yard was South Bay Metals in Gilroy. They had acres of treasures so every time I got down to Gilroy I would stop by. A few years ago I would never have revealed this treasure lest other artists get the good stuff. This treasure can be revealed because, alas, they were not making enough money in the scrap business and started cleaning up the yard. The acres of treasures have been reduced to just a few desultory containers. I still stop by but it is not the same.

Fortunately my technique has improved to the point where I no longer need a piece of inspiring junk to get me started. I am not as facile with steel as I was with wood but I am pretty much to the point visualizing the piece and then being able to fabricate it. And I have (mostly) cleaned up my driveway.

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