Iron metal art can be very expressive, whether it’s large sculpture, fire art, jewelry, wall art or even structural work. Even a basic knowledge of metalworking will allow you to begin creating. Here’s how to get started as a iron metal artist.
Find a local source for basic education about gear, safety and technique. Most large cities, and many towns, have artist collectives and workshops dedicated to iron metal art. Schools such as The Crucible in Oakland, California, offer classes, and many community colleges provide welding and metalworking courses. When you enroll in a course, usually you’ll have access to a full metal shop and tools for practice.
Mentoring and Apprenticeship
Contact local metal shops or artists to find out who needs assistants. Many professional iron metal artists take on students and helpers, particularly for large projects. As a beginning artist, you can assist on challenging work while learning from an experienced professional; you may even be paid to learn. You’ll also build contacts and relationships in the iron metal art scene.
If you don’t have basic skills and can’t afford metalworking classes, many mid-level artists will gladly teach you the basic elements for a fee or in exchange for labor.
Tackle welding first: It’s an integral skill to metalworking and, though easy to pick up, can take years to master. Welding is the technique of fusing two pieces of metal by focusing an electric current in a specific area, causing the metal to heat and fuse. Metal inert gas (MIG) welding is easiest to learn, followed by arc/stick welding. Tungsten inert gas (TIG) welding is specifically for non-ferrous metals. Oxy-acetylene welding is a more traditional method but less commonly used now.
If you plan to create jewelry or other detail work, practice soldering. Similar to welding, soldering is used to connect small pieces and non-ferrous metals.
Also practice cutting metal using chop saws, snips, cutters and any other tools at your disposal. These are very easy to learn how to use and can be picked up quickly.
As you master and practice each technique, you’ll learn about other tools and methods from your fellow artists, and you may even decide to take more classes to refine your skill.
Metalworking is a very dangerous practice, and so it’s crucial that you always wear protective gear. This includes shatterproof welding goggles, breathing masks, welding masks, earplugs, leathers (leather or suede covers for your clothing), heat-resistant gloves, steel-toe boots and protection for long hair.
Always have a fire extinguisher, first-aid kit and eye wash handy. Never look directly at a welding spark because the light produced can burn your retinas.