Part 3 of 3: STRETCH the Artistic Metalworker and Welder
STRETCH, a world-renowned artistic metalworker, says “Miller equipment is tops” when creating large scale sculptures. He shares his welding background and the importance hard work and top-quality equipment have in any project he takes on.
While many college students were learning the basics of sculpting, STRETCH was already welding—a lot.
“I started welding everything together,” says STRETCH. “I would weld manhole covers, aluminum hub caps and try to weld to steel to bronze. I didn’t know the difference between all the different metals, but I learned whether the welds would crack or hold. And little by little, by welding everything under the sun together, I learned how to weld and create sculptures.”
One of STRETCH'S many sculptures
STRETCH connects much more than just metal. He connects a variety of elements, including metal, glass, wood, plastic and stone, and does it all with structural integrity.
“You have a yin-yang thing working between two elements, and when you add another element, it becomes incredibly dynamic,” says STRETCH.
Take glass and steel, for example. “I take plate glass, stack it and chip the edge,” he says. “It becomes very seductive, like an icicle. It wants to suck you in. And then you have this hard edge of steel that sandwiches it together or holds it delicately like a diamond ring. So you have this incredible balance between two materials that are completely malleable but hard as steel. That’s powerful.”
For welding metal together, STRETCH’s choice of equipment has always been Miller. When he began welding, one of his teachers was an acting sculptor and made it clear that using top-of-the-line equipment wasn’t a preference—it was a necessity. All he had to do was look around. All the industry people were using Miller, and STRETCH was sold.
“Quality equipment can make a quality weld, period…but you have to know how to use it,” says STRETCH. Miller equipment is tops, “and Miller support is top notch no matter where I am.”
A recent milestone speaks to Miller reliability. “One of my Miller machines just passed the 13-year mark and it has never been in the [repair] shop,” says STRETCH. “The only type of equipment that I haven’t had in my shop until now is a plasma cutter. Now I have the Miller Spectrum® 375 X-TREME™ It’s a great little machine that’s almost too cute for the amount of power it has. I can easily carry it around the shop.” This unit weighs only 18 lbs., cuts 3/16-in. steel at a rate of 10 inches per minute and accepts 115V or 230V primary power because it features Auto-Line™ technology and MVP™ (multi-voltage plug).
However, a shop full of Miller equipment and materials does not a sculptor make. “Being an artist isn’t easy,” says STRETCH. “It’s glamorous and it’s romantic, but it’s a heck of a lot of work. You can be a great artist, but if you work with unusual objects, such as bones or things in the street, your pieces may not fit in people’s homes. With my imagery and choice of materials, I am lucky. They’re architectural, referential and work well with people’s houses and the environment.”
Still, when it comes to being an artist, it’s the “heck of a lot of work” part that seems to separate STRETCH from other artists. “I work seven days a week and have for years and years and years,” says STRETCH. “Many artists don’t like that kind of lifestyle.” And while you can’t tell an artist to “color inside the lines,” STRETCH seems to have a relatively conservative approach to his work.
“Much of my training was as a fabricator,” says STRETCH. “I had set schedules and had to be places at certain times. I have carried that with me as an artist. I don’t miss deadlines, and I am on or under budget. I’ve had great mentors in the business world that helped to focus my attention.”
If STRETCH has any piece of advice for sculptors, it is that knowledge is power. He believes that creativity is a thirst that must be quenched, but artists need to hone their skills and continue to learn. Knowledge will eventually propel them onto a higher playing field (visit Miller’s online resources for more welding knowledge).
“When you have that information and knowledge, no one can take it away,” says STRETCH. “It stays in your core. Making money comes down the road.”
Not that STRETCH has any conventional financial advice. “My dad used to say, ‘Save some money for a rainy day,’” says STRETCH. “I told him I was moving to Arizona because it doesn’t rain much there.”