I had so many ideas I wanted to try. Sometimes a crazy idea comes to mind and I just couldn’t rest until I tried it! – A guest blog by Glenn HowardPosted: November 30, 2015
My name is Glenn Howard Weidman and I have been a welder for over 21 years now. I have been a rig welder in the oil and gas fields of Colorado for the last ten years.
It was only about two years ago that I attempted any decorative iron work. I was actually inspired by my son Manny who is himself an incredibly gifted sketch artist. (He had to get it from somewhere, right?) We started out by having him draw flowers or animals in plate steel and I would cut them out with an oxy-acetylene torch. From there I was hooked. I had so many ideas I wanted to try. Sometimes a crazy idea comes to mind and I just couldn’t rest until I tried it!
I’ve always loved the freedom and endless possibilities involved in decorative iron work. When I’m welding pipe in the oil field I have very strict parameters I have to conform to, both in dimensions and X-Ray inspection. But, when I’m fabricating a decorative piece I can leave the square and tape measure in the tool box. The shape can be anything I envision. I often change my mind or vary the general concept several times before completion.
Lately, I’ve done a lot of horseshoe pieces. It seems to reflect the culture of the area I live in. Besides, the horseshoes are given to me, free of charge! It’s a fun concept with limitless possibilities.
I hope to start doing much more decorative metal work professionally in the future. I would like to find a shop and start taking on decorative iron jobs like the pieces featured here, railings, sculptures or whatever I and a customer can envision.
If you’d like to find out more about what I do, you can see my Facebook page here – https://www.facebook.com/glenn.weidman
My fascination with fixing, making and building things, started way back in 1995 aged 13 when me and my dad bought an old mini from the classifieds to restore. The car was mine and the aim was for me to have a car that I could use once passed my driving test. Many many nights and weekends were spent cutting out bits of rotten metal and cleaning up old parts to make them like new. My dad taught me how to use various tools and I gradually got ‘the nack’ of being comfortable using them.
3 years later, upon school leaving, I was signing on the dotted line to become a member of the RAF as an aircraft engineer. These years taught and honed my abilities to use my hands and my love of engineering was founded.
I spend 10 years as an aircraft engineer whilst building up several cars in my spare time. Each one attempting to be different to others and push boundaries. I actually got a kick from building and fabricating my own specific parts. Just being able to express myself with metal and other materials gave me a lot of happiness.
In 2013 after 5 years in civilian aviation, I had acquired a couple of old bits in my garage. One of which was a set of old grey leather aircraft seats. I realised we needed a new computer office chair in the house so I decided to build one. A week later it was built, but didn’t really match the décor, so it was put up for sale. After 2 hours, it was sold!
I started to get asked to build pieces that people needed. Reaction to them was really good and I started to quickly outgrow the small garage I had, so I headed out looking for a new workshop.
I found one for a reasonable cost and fitted it out with tooling and various aircraft parts I found. This soon became too small so I now reside in a 1000sqft workshop with my own sheet metal working area, a spray paint area, photography corner, lots of storage and space to work on different projects at the same time. This means I can produce more pieces, weather ordered bespoke or off the cuff builds for sale. I genuinely love to build pieces that other people haven’t thought of or haven’t attempted. Metal to me is a very nice material. You can mix cold, old steel with high polished aluminium. Adding in rivets or welding it to create contemporary shapes. I am by no means a brilliant welder, but patience and preparation are definite key requirements. The old saying of “measure twice, cut once” is very very true. I hate to waste things, so any offcuts or spare parts from things I’m building, including nuts and bolts, get kept for use at a later date.
I want to be the best in Europe at building Aircraft furniture. Due to having a large network of contacts in the aviation industry, I can get decommissioned parts as a lesser price, which means I can pass on these savings to the clients. Building Pieces of stunning furniture means more to me than making lots of money. I would love people to have a piece of my work in their house or workplace that has history and is a talking point. I love building and using metal. In the past 12 months the business has grown massively. I’ve exhibited at Fulham palace, Grand designs live, and at the national festival of thrift. Published in magazines, The Telegraph and Daily Mail along with BBC radio interviews.
I only found boredom in the normal day to day routine. So to fill the void I found ways to channel my ideas into creations.
It started with a passion for playing drums. Teaching myself by creating music that was both original and powerful. Trying to bring something different to the table. This is the same concept I have for my metal work.
I started tinkering with some of my dad’s scrap steel and his old welder about two years ago. It was whilst doing this that I taught myself how to do everything I needed to make my sculptures. I have only been creating sculptures for two years, and I work so making metal art for me is a full time hobby.
The skeleton hand was one of the first things I made. I wanted to make it look like something straight out of the horror movies that I’ve loved all my life.
My inspiration is kind of called “Glam Rot.” Putting an old rustic look on things and glamming up the not-so- pretty. On my commissioned pieces I will find a way to blend my own ideas and give it a creative twist, with a rustic, yet clean cut look.
Twenty five years ago in East London, while studying for a degree in psychology, I discovered that metal was an addictive substance. I had always had an interest in art and sculpture and though psychology wasn’t really holding my interest it gave me the opportunity to take some classes at the Slade School of Art. I also got the chance to go to Italy on an exchange program where by chance I met the Mutoid Waste Company, a group of anarchic circus performers whose spectacles revolved around incredible sculptures and machines made entirely from scrap metal on a scale I had never seen before. They had even created sculpture from a Russian Mig fighter plane in the centre of Berlin.
Back in London I began making sculptures at home from anything I could find. I found work with a steel fabricator where I learnt the basics of welding and shaping steel. Still with the desire to create artistic pieces I went to work for a traditional blacksmith in Kent where I learnt the magic of hot forgework, an addiction in itself.
Now, from my workshop in Cheshire, I try to keep design and creativity at the centre of what I make, whether it be a decorative gate, seating or a sculptural water feature. I take inspiration from the forms in nature such as the twisting stems of plants which seem to lend themselves perfectly to the medium of metal. I also have a passion for insects partly for their beauty but also for their alien weirdness. Traditional art blacksmithing such as the early work of Samuel Yellin http://www.samuelyellin.com/history/ is an inspiration, but I take influence from other media too, such as the wood carving of Grinling Gibbons from the 17th century and the photography of Karl Blossfeldt.
I never claim to be a great technical blacksmith and indeed many traditionalists would not call me a blacksmith at all as I don’t use traditional wrought iron and can scarcely fire-weld. I have no formal training so have always had to find my own methods to achieve the desired result which to me is more important than the purity of the process and I am not averse to using a combination of modern and traditional methods. I forge in the ancient way using coke, hammer and anvil, but I also have a small power hammer which takes a lot of sweat out of bigger forging jobs. I use MIG welding and plasma cutters and have recently invested in a TIG welder as I increasingly use stainless steel in some of my sculptures.
After more than 20 years in the workshop, I am now looking to other interests. I have always been a writer and recently published a children’s book on Amazon called Stunt Crow http://www.amazon.co.uk/Stunt-Crow-1-David-Freedman/dp/149538750X. I’m currently working on a second. That said, I don’t think I will ever stray too far from the forge. Once hooked to the beauty and permanence of metal you can never break the habit.
I am a blacksmith and an artist blacksmith. I differentiate between the terms because I feel I wear different hats according to the work I am doing. My bread and butter work is the small scale production of functional items such as fire sets, curtain rails and small domestic items but I also make commissioned sculptural works and exhibition pieces as well as historically accurate reproduction and renovation works.
At the heart of everything that I do is metal. I work mainly in mild steel and to a lesser extent stainless steel (316).I work by hand on the anvil, using a power hammer for large
works. I work mainly in small diameter lengths, 6ml up to 2 inch and sheet steel. I use the gas forge most of the time though I do have a coke forge for fire welding.
It was my father’s influence that encouraged me into smithing. He was originally a sculptor in other materials but found himself increasingly drawn towards metal. The forge was the hub of our home, the smell of hot metal and grind pervaded everything. My father taught me that forging metal is more than just heating and bending. You have to work with the material; it’s like a dance, or a wrestling match. You need timing and accuracy, getting it to the right temperature and striking it in the right spot. It is a hard material that doesn’t give up its shape easily; it needs to be coaxed firmly until it reluctantly agrees to transfigure itself. There is something incredibly magical about watching it become malleable with heat and change under the hammer blows.
I undertook a degree in fine art and trained as a teacher but continued smithing. I was offered a contract as the blacksmith in residence at the Museum of Welsh Life where I worked for several years. I started to develop my own smithing business, Ferric Fusion, after this, alongside working in FE as a resistant materials lecturer before leaving to build the business full time.
I started teaching smithing on weekend courses because I enjoy passing on the skills I have acquired. The monthly blacksmithing courses have become very successful and were short listed for the inaugural UK Craft Skills awards.
Smithing is more than a job, it’s a way of life. When I’m not in the forge I am usually designing or discussing techniques with one of my two brothers who are also blacksmiths. My daughter has just been offered a place on a sculpture course. Perhaps she’ll be the first of a third generation.
Aaron Petersen, Ferric Fusion
To book a place on one of Aaron’s one and two day blacksmithing courses contact via the website www.ferricfusion.co.uk courses cost £130 for one day, £260 for two days.
To see a video of Aaron making one of his rams head pokers which was shot by heritage crafts film specialists Artisan Media http://www.artisanco.com visit you tube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gdQSPCtC__Y
If you’re interested in being a Guest Blogger for The Metal Store feel free to get in touch with us, we’d love to showcase your work!