Metal Art & How To Get Started Hero

Why The World Needs Your Metal Art!

Do you dream about getting into metal art and sculpting but have no clue where to start? From furniture to flowers, there are no limits to what you can create with metal. And it may not be as hard to get started as you thought.

Barbie The Welder Sculpting

My name is Barbie The Welder and I’m a full-time metal sculptor, but I didn’t start out that way. I started out welding in a fabrication shop and slowly taught myself how to weld metal art at home after work.

On September 1st, 2014 I quit my job to go full time as an artist, and over the last 7 years, I have created sculptures for Harley Davidson, Miller Welders, Chicago Pneumatic, The American Welding Society, and exclusive clients in 13 countries, all from my one car garage.

After experiencing the journey of becoming a self-made artist myself, I’d like to share my learnings and walk you through the six things you should consider when exploring metal art projects and the path to full-time artistry.

Welding Safety Gear

Safety Gear & Proper Attire

1st things first, safety is no accident! Here is what you will need:

  • Jeans
  • Long sleeve cotton shirt or fire-resistant shirt or jacket
  • Leather boots
  • Gloves that cover your hands and wrists
  • Safety glasses
  • Hearing protection
  • Fire extinguisher

If you’re using a plasma cutter, you’ll need a shade 5 safety glasses to protect your eyes from radiation and UV rays. Any time you’re welding wear a quality weld hood to protect your eyes, face, and neck from flash burn, ultraviolet light, sparks, infrared light, and heat. The AWS recommends at least a shade 10 lens when welding, but I set mine to anywhere between 11-13 depending on what I’m welding. I use a Miller Digital Elite weld hood; they are on the higher-priced side but last faithfully through years of abuse. Miller has less expensive hoods, but I love the Elite the most for the larger viewing area.

Welding Workspace Fumes

A Work Space

A large workspace is wonderful, but you don’t need a big shop to do big things. I create metal art in my 1 car garage that’s attached to my home, and I’ve crafted sculptures ranging from 6″ tall to 6 feet tall. Make sure your workspace should have proper ventilation as welding creates fumes, and you need a way to get those fumes away from you and your shop. Some welding and grinding can throw sparks, so don’t weld in an area with wood floors or around anything that is flammable.

Some communities have makers spaces where you can rent the space with all the equipment. Search online to see if you have one near you.

Welding Metal Workbench

A Metal Workbench

You’ll need a metal workbench. There are tons of options out there to buy a readymade bench but welding your own workbench is really simple. When you weld your own workbench you can customize it to your height and your needs which makes it easier for you to work.

Here is one YouTube video for a budget DIY welder table with instructions on making your own workbench, and there are plenty more out there.

If you want a ready-made one check out the Rhino Cart Mobile Welding Table & Fixturing Station from Strong Hand Tools. The price difference is pretty staggering though if you are just getting started.

Music in the Shop

Music & Source of Inspiration

I work with music on in my shop… ALWAYS! If you’re a music lover like me get some speakers set up and play your favorite music while you work. There’s just something about the vibe of music that makes creation easier.

Vibe to my favorite songs here: http://bit.ly/BarbieTheWelderShopMix

Barbie The Welder's Metal Art Tools

Tools & Equipment

If you are joining the metalworking community on a budget and are limited on what equipment you can buy similar to when I first started, I recommend a gas MIG welder that can run on 110v and an angle grinder. With those two tools, you can create such a wide variety of art that you almost don’t need anything else.

The MIG welder can be adjusted to weld steel and stainless steel anywhere from 18 gauge up to 3/8” thick.

With the angle grinder, you can use a cutoff wheel to cut your material, a sanding disk to smooth and deburr your material, and a wire cup brush to clean and texture your material.

Depending on your budget and workspace you can always add more tools and equipment later. As my business grew, I added a chop saw, a pipe bender, an air compressor, and a plasma cutter.

Materials

There is such a wide variety of materials to use for welding art! The materials you choose to make your art will depend on the art you want to make. Some ideas for what materials to use for different projects are:

  • Tables can be made using 1” square tubing
  • Flowers can be made with 18 gauge steel for the pedals and 1/4” round bar for the stem
  • Dice can be made from 1/2” square bar
  • A skull can be made from 11 gauge steel
  • Bookends can be made from 2” bar stock
Barbie Creating Metal Art

Start Making Metal Art Today!

Creating metal art you love takes time and practice. If you are anything like me before I started, I was all over social media looking at people’s metalwork and dreaming of making my own. It’s great to look to other people for inspiration but don’t judge your day 1 against someone else’s day 100. Don’t expect to step into the shop and create masterpieces right away. Work each day to improve yourself over what you did the day before and before you know it others will be looking at your art and wishing they can make that too.

I’m excited for you as you begin your journey into metal art. The possibilities of what you can create are limitless and creating improves not only the art, but the artist behind the art!

Barbie’s Sculpture Gallery