The branches and stems of my plant sculptures are made of steel rod. The rod’s natural form is perfectly smooth, like a wood dowel or the barrel of a pen. I like my sculptures to have an organic, twisty look, like they actually ‘grew’ out of the earth but happen to be made of metal. The smooth steel rod looks too manufactured, so before I can use it to make a sculpture, I grind the surface to give it texture and the ‘twisting’ appearance.
Grinding isn’t as hazardous as welding or glassworking; there are no flammable materials or unsafe fumes. Still, it’s smelly and oh so filthy – the grinding action abrades the smooth surface, and that nice twisty look I like means smooth steel has to shed millions of little steel ‘dust’ specks first.
I use a high-RPM angle grinder to roughen up the steel and get it twisty. I have to wear earplugs to protect against the decibel level of the grinder, and full-shield goggles to protect against the flying steel ‘dust’.
It’s not my favorite part of making my plant sculptures; I think of it as ‘grunt work’ since it’s repetitive, physical and less creative. But sometimes, after a long day at work (where my marketing job makes use of – and sometimes temporarily exhausts – my creativity), a little ‘grunt work’ fits the bill.
Then, when I’m ready to be more contemplative and creative, I have a nice pile of twisty ground steel, ready to go!
Many of the Milwaukee beer barons’ houses had grand ironworked gates, which I learned about when studying the work of master blacksmith Cyril Colnik. Being a welder isn’t exactly the same as being a blacksmith, but I was so entranced by the twisted linear beauty of ironwork, I wanted to try my hand at it. First were our mail boxes.
Next up is new ironwork-style house numbers for our front door. The current numbers are small and, being white on the light-beige door, hard to read. I have a spot all picked out, at the bottom of our screen door.
While we were staying at Hotel Stebbins, our favorite rest stop in Algoma, I spotted a pattern I’d like to use on the sides of the numbers.
I’ve been thinking about doing this for years, and now I’m finally starting it!
I’m a true Midwestern girl: I like my change of seasons, including winter when everything sleeps. Winter means changes in my routine as an artist. There’s less light to photograph my finished pieces. And my studio ventilation system sucks air directly from the outside.
My ventilated studio: grey welding curtain on the left, double-fan system at top, and steel-covered work table at the bottom.
Whenever I work with glass, I need to ventilate, since the MAPP gas torch gives off carbon monoxide as a byproduct.
It’s worth it to make my little glass flowers. I also ventilate — no matter what time of year — when I’m spraying aerosols (paint, glue etc) and when I’m welding with my oxy-acetylene torch.
Working in the winter-time studio means extra steps to my ‘protective gear’ getup, to make sure I stay warm and focused!
In the beginning, my art flowers were single-dimension.
‘single’ ceramic flowers
Then, I gave my ceramic and glass flowers wedded bliss after years of single life. I called these new flowers “nested” and used them in sculptures. These little nests begat another evolution: The nested flowers ‘look’ lent itself to use in a necklace (so said my friends / customers), and my house of sculpture added a small room for jewelry.
Nested flower necklaces
Generations of flowers passed, and this fall the latest evolution presented itself: Daisy-style ceramic flowers with a weeny glass center.
White ceramic daisy with green glass center
With the daisy fervor still rampaging, another evolutionary tributary has begun to flow: Patterns, evoking decorative traditions from Poland (my heritage), Hungary, Romania, Czechoslovakia and others.
Flower Pattern Drawings
2013 looks exciting!