Metal on his mind

Illinois artist puts his thoughts down on metal

PRACTICAL WELDING TODAY® MAY/JUNE 2005

June 14, 2005

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Most people are happy just to get their thoughts down on paper. Mike Ingram takes it a step farther, capturing what he sees in his mind in the metal he shapes and welds.

Mike Ingram spent three months detailing a replica of the Captain Morgan rum ship.

"When I make something, I picture it in my mind and pick it apart," Ingram said with a gleam in his eye that makes you think he might be imagining something right then and there to sculpt.

From Boredom to Freedom

Ingram first got into welding after working as a machinist in the Navy. The Lyndon, Ill., resident always knew he wanted to work in metal fabrication, so machining was a logical place to start. He learned, though, that it wasn't what he wanted to do for the rest of his life.

"I got bored with it," he said.

Then in 1992 he started working for Drives Inc., in Fulton, Ill., which manufactures agriculture precision chain and auger flighting for combines. It was there that he landed a job as a welder and started learning the trade that eventually got him into making sculptures.

Ingram displays the Captain Morgan ship (left) and the first ship he ever made, constructed of brass.

For the last seven years or so, Ingram has been gas tungsten arc welding (GTAW) a variety of sculptures through trial and error. He's made so many, from a parachuter to a scene out of a beautician's shop to friends playing billiards, and everything in between, that he's lost count of the number he's completed.

He welds stainless and carbon steel and solders brass, all scrap metal. His goal is to make his sculptures as realistic as possible.

"Everything I do I try to make it realistic, like it's right outside your door," Ingram said.

Although his sculptures are true to life, they also capture humor. For example, he once made a sculpture of a golf cart—for an avid golfer—that was being pulled by a beer cart, complete with a miniature six-pack of beer inside. And the miniature foosball table and aircraft he's made all have working parts, such as propellers and foosball rods.

Working rods make this foosball table especially entertaining and realistic for Ingram and his fiancee.

Attention to Detail

Moving parts are just one aspect of the realism Ingram portrays in his work. The detail he captures is just as important.

"The touches that he adds to them—he puts his heart into them," said Ingram's fiancee, Kimberland Dolieslager.

The most detailed sculpture Ingram has made to date took him three months to complete: a replica of the ship featured on bottles of Captain Morgan® spiced rum.

Like a pianist who can play any tune that he hears on the radio, Ingram transferred the ship from the bottle to metal, all the way down to the sails, which had to lie just right. After experimenting with T-shirt and sweatshirt material for the sails, Ingram settled on white electrical tape because it gave him the look he was striving for.

Spending so much time to make sure every detail is perfect is something that Dolieslager marvels at.

"I don't know if I'd have the patience," she said.

Currently Ingram makes all of his sculptures specifically for friends, family, and acquaintances he knows who have hobbies or jobs he can portray in metal.

But his dream is to sculpt another ship, one much larger than those he's already completed. Before that happens, though, he and his fiancee will need a bigger house, something they're both committed to finding.

And although he hasn't sold any pieces yet, Ingram said he'd be interested in displaying his sculptures at art-related functions and businesses if the opportunity arises.

For now Ingram will continue to imagine what his next creation will be.

"There's a lot of talent for him to be able to picture this in his mind and make it," Dolieslager said. "The wheels are turning all the time."

Mike Ingram, 203 2nd Ave. E., P.O. Box 315, Lyndon, IL 61261


Stephanie Vaughan

Contributing Writer

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