Sculptor Debra Montgomery works in metal, creating a variety of work and commissions. She shares her technique and talks about being a full-time artist.
ABI: Could you describe your metal sculpture technique?
DM: I went to school for two years to learn the different welding processes. I primarily use MIG and TIG processes in my sculpture work. I generally work in steel and copper, both of which you can weld and shape with abrasive tools and heat.
I also use metal embossing techniques called repousse and chasing. Repousse is a French word that means “to push.” In this technique, which I typically use with copper, the design is transferred onto the metal with graphite paper and permanent marker. The metal is placed in a sticky pitch material to hold it in place and, using various punches and dulled chisel type tools, the design is pushed and formed into a two-dimensional design. This technique works well for wall hangings and decorative work on vessels or faces of kitchen hoods, etc.
ABI: Tell us about your current direction and upcoming opportunities.
DM: I have found that in conversation when people ask what I do and I tell them metal sculpture or welded steel sculpture, there seems to be a misconception about metal art generally. It appears there are many people who assume metal art consists of hobby-type creations, using rusty junk yard finds or torch cut designs that you would expect to see at a local craft fair. There is that element in the world of metal art, and it has its place.
However, there are a number of accomplished fine artists/welders I admire and follow who create incredible larger scale three-dimensional sculptures with welding, forging and general metal fabrication. Their work can be found in galleries and the more affluent customers’ homes. I strive to be more in this category, and I want to play a part in educating the public about the vast scope of metal work that goes way beyond crafty with my own representation of the same.
Being a welder by trade, welded sculpture is my medium of choice. I am most fond of creating large scale realistic pieces, focusing most recently on horse-related subject matter. I feel I have just scraped the surface of what I am capable of doing. For me, the most important thing is the detail and realism. I love textures you can create with the welded material. Short term, I have two art shows coming up over the next few months that are horse-themed shows. I also have some long-term goals to produce some figurative work, with which I want to focus on athleticism and movement.
ABI: You work full time with metal. What types of projects do you work on with your clients?
DM: My husband is a licensed contractor, and we have a main fabrication business that caters to custom residential metal products such as kitchen hoods and counter tops and the like. We work in copper, steel, bronze, pewter and zinc. We have done iron hand railings in the past as well. Recently we scaled back and have stopped doing any installations to spend more time in the shop doing what we do best, which is creating and fabricating. All the work we do now is either shipped or delivered if it is local. We have been fortunate to keep a full schedule that is typically booked out at least three months ahead.
This year, we do have a sculpture project on the calendar for a local customer that will be a full size figurative piece, approximately 6 feet tall. It will be a cloaked figure holding a lantern, which will be a functioning light. With the face and other anatomical features, this will definitely be a challenging project. We are looking forward to this opportunity, that will hopefully open up future doors for more artistic endeavors.