November 5, 2012
When he’s not TIG welding at his “normal” job, career welder and metal artist Roger King uses his skills with a TIG torch to create metal sculptures.
It’s no secret that TIG welders are a different breed. Their patience, steadiness, and craftsmanship set them apart from other welders. Not everyone is cut out for TIG welding, and those heavily involved typically wear the love of their craft on their sleeves.
That’s Roger King in a nutshell. A career TIG welder, King became hooked in 1976 when he took a job TIG welding flexible stainless steel hose assemblies.“[TIG welding] is a little more unique. You get a lot more control with it than with other processes. To me, it’s almost like drawing in 3-D. There’s nothing quite like it.”
It seems appropriate then that King, a resident of Midland, Mich., was inherently drawn to TIG welding. An artist by nature, he has always enjoyed drawing and taking art classes. When he was young his parents moved to the country where he learned how to weld and fabricate from a neighboring farmer. He didn’t make a connection between art and welding until 1997, when he took his children to visit an art gallery.
“We noticed some metal garden critters on display, so when I got home, I put together a giraffe for my daughter that turned out pretty well. Then I made a couple of birds. I took those to the gallery and they put them on sale. A couple of hours later, they called and told me that they had been sold!” King exclaimed.
For the last 15 years or so, King has immersed himself in all things TIG welding. If he’s not doing it at work, he’s at work in his home shop TIG welding sculptures, repair welding, or building a car. In other words, his hobbies are welding and welding. Sure, TIG welding get tedious at times, but he finds satisfaction in working a sculpture, adding metal drop by drop until it finally comes together.
King likes to create and form things that are entertaining and fun—sculptures that make people smile, including those in his series of cartoon rat sculptures such as “Eric Claprat,” “Dancing with the Rats,” or “Easy Ratter” (see Figures 1 and 2). He hand paints each sculpture, giving each character life. He doesn’t take himself too seriously, and that quality is reflected in his art.
“One day when I was working on birds, I had stuff scattered on a workbench. I started moving pieces around and all of a sudden I said, ‘Well, if I move this piece here, it looks like a rat.’ All of a sudden I was making rats. People asked, ‘Why do you want to make rats?’ And I said, ‘Well, it’s just fun.’ So the rats evolved from the birds.”
He also dabbles in functional sculptures, ones that reflect nature, and those that depict characters and literary figures (see Figures 3, 4, and 5).
King is a regular contributor to annual art events including the Midland Summer Sculpture Series and has displayed his work at venues such as the Midland Center for the Arts, the Saginaw Art Museum, and Marshall M. Fredericks Sculpture Museum at Saginaw Valley State University, as well as other central Michigan venues.
For King, TIG-welded art is all about doing something that is as fun for people to look at as it is for him to make.
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