unique opportunity to draw with fire
SULPHUR, Ky. (December 2004) As Bates Webster,
38, of Sulphur, Ky., was nearing the end of her masters program
at the University of Louisville, she was still not sure what she wanted
to do with her art credentials. She had always wanted to try working
with metal, but the big, heavy machinery was very intimidating.
by Debra Maylum
two of her sculptures.
With a short time left in her college career, she knew
her chance for instruction would soon be over, so she went in one day
while nobody else was there and asked a professor to show her the basics.
It was surprisingly easy, she said, and that day she created seven pieces.
When the professor saw her work, he convinced her to include them in
her thesis show. Everything began to progress from there, Webster said.
Today, she operates the Red House Farm, a fully equipped metal sculpture
studio in Sulphur, where she teaches workshops to beginners. She spent
many years traveling around the country successfully wholesaling her
work, which at one time was in 140 stores and galleries, before deciding
to settle into one place and teach. She has been teaching workshops
for about a year now.
In the one-day workshop, students learn basic welding and cutting, and
they then make a sculpture. According to Webster, the workshops are
relaxed. She provides structure as far as teaching goes, however, the
students take it from there.
I show them how to do everything, and then I let them do whatever
they want. If someone wants to spend the whole day cutting, that is
fine, Webster said. Many students arrive with ideas already in
mind about what they want to create, she said. Some bring pictures and
are ready to get to work, while others need some inspiration and ideas,
which she is always able to provide.
Once a student knows what he would like to create, they get to work.
For example, said Webster, if they want to make a table, we start with
the metal and a plasma torch. The compressed air and electricity torch
gets hot quickly, allowing a person to, in a sense, draw with it. The
student would first cut out the design of the tabletop, then the legs.
Next, he would weld the pieces together. The final step is to finish
the piece with a clear coat.
If the student chooses, he can send the final piece to be powder coated.
This creates a different look, according to Webster, and makes the piece
more permanent because it prevents rusting. Some people like the look
of a rusted piece. It is simply a personal preference.
by Debra Maylum
Hicks of La Grange, Ky., works
on his first sculpture.
The teaching experience has been a positive one for Webster.
She said she loves liberating people from the initial fear of using
the equipment and watching them grab the torch and get to work. Each
class has no more than four students, so everyone gets one-on-one instruction,
which makes for a wonderful experience. Odd as it may sound, people
often comment on how peaceful it is. Many people are interested in learning
to do more once they complete the one-day workshop, she said. As a result,
she is creating a package that would include several classes so students
could come back and advance their skills through several sessions.
Just about every range of person imaginable is interested in learning
to sculpt with metal. Webster has taught men and women ranging from
ages 15 to early 60s who come from all lifestyles.
She provides such a low key environment and has a way of making
you feel like you can do anything you want, said Marilyn Werst,
55, who traveled from Louisville to take the workshop. Werst said that
just being able to use the tools and tell people she had welded something
was exciting. Her eating crow sculpture, an idea she got
from a sculpture she had seen at an art show in Vermont, is proudly
displayed in her yard.
Each eight-hour, Saturday (or by appointment) workshop costs $180 and
includes everything needed to go home with a sculpture. Once you go
through the motions, it is easy and students sometimes leave with a
number of projects, Webster said.
For information or to reserve a spot in a workshop,
or call the Red House Farm at (502) 773-3494.
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