The field of industrial arts has taken on an artistic new meaning for Sherrard High School senior Curt Miller.
Tasked by art teacher Janet Wilson to create something he’s always dreamed of making, Mr. Miller began working on a life-size 3-D human sculpture, using only metal washers.
“The Sprinter” was born out of combining four years of art skills with welding skills learned in metal fabrication classes.
“I always wanted to make something big — and human. I was looking on the internet; I saw some people make stuff out of washers. No one’s made something this big out of washers,” Mr. Miller said. He completed the project in early February.
When he got the idea, he approached his metal fabrication teacher, John Rasty, for help. He received permission to work on it in the shop during his art class and continue working on it into his metal fabrication class, giving him a large stretch of uninterrupted time for the project every day. Mr. Rasty found a base in the shop for Mr. Miller to use, and he set to work last November.
“I thought it was a cool idea. He seemed to like doing the 3-D metal sculpture stuff. ... I trust him enough to let him go in there and do his thing. It turned out pretty good,” Mr. Rasty said.
Mr. Miller said he wasn’t sure exactly how the project would turn out.
“I was told I needed to look at a human being the entire time, but no one’s going to stand there for me for that long,” he said. After spending time studying pictures of people in running poses, he just went with his instincts.
It was an arduous task. Safety precautions required him to wear a helmet, a welding jacket and industrial gloves to complete the project. He said the process was painful at times — he often burnt through his welding gloves when he had to hold each washer and carefully weld it on by placing each one on top of another, with a bead of metal weld until it took form.
Once the form was complete, he sanded and painted it.
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“When I started the foot, I didn’t have any idea of what I was going to do,” he said. The most difficult transition for him was going from one leg to the other, as it curves up into the running position with the second leg lifted off the ground.
“It was pretty mentally straining,” he said. But the form never toppled over. To prevent that, he attached rebar supports.
Mr. Miller said when he tried to make a head on the piece, it didn’t work out. That’s when Ms. Wilson suggested he keep it abstract.
During the process, Mr. Miller learned the importance of proportions. “If you have one thing off, it’s going to throw the whole thing off. ... You have to have the person who’s looking at it fill in the pieces, that creates art,” he said.
Since completing the project, he has started welding small sculptures. He recently created a motorcycle out of random scraps he found in the shop.
His future plans are to apprentice as a bricklayer, but he also hopes to continue to explore his interest in creating 3-D industrial art.
“I really want to make a giant, giant sculpture, huge. (But) I don’t have the time and resources for that — maybe in the future,” he said.
“The Sprinter” will be displayed at a Quad-Cities art show in late March. The sculpture is for sale, he said.
“Ever since I was little, I wanted to create something huge to wow people. I always like to see people’s reaction. I didn’t think it would turn out like this, but it worked out,” he said.