David Griesmyer is an artist specializing in the creation of stainless steel sculptures, known for his detailed and carefully crafted work. Although he now works with metals everyday, David's career started very differently -- working for a medical company.
We talk to him about his work, his journey to becoming a welder, and his advice for welders starting out:
YesWelder: Can you tell me about how you became involved in the trades? I saw on your website that you attended a welding school -- can you share with us what prompted you to learn to weld?
David: I was working as a medical rep for a large medical company and I would drive to many hospitals. One day when I was driving to a hospital, I stopped at a red light and looked to the left. There I saw a vacant strip mall, and I had a vision of people welding and grinding and making things. I immediately called my wife and told her I needed to start a metal fabrication company. The very next day I started buying welding equipment.
Three years went by and a friend of mine (who owned his own weld shop) asked me what I was doing. I had not left the medical profession yet but his words were very strong. What he said was, "David if you are wanting to start a metal fabrication company, you should probably learn how to weld." Simple but true. I researched schools and settled for one. The next step was the hardest. I left my medical profession and enrolled in a career center in southeast Ohio. I was initially nervous and embarrassed that I had left what I thought was a respectable job to learn to weld. I was so wrong. It was the best decision I have ever made.
YesWelder: I'd also love to learn more about the work that you do now. Have you always had a passion for art or is this something that you discovered once you started working in the trades? Was there any particular moment that you decided to use your skills to create art, or was this always something you were interested in doing?
David: I have always loved art. I have painted and drawn my whole life. The art I do now was never even a thought until the first week of learning TIG in welding school. I was practicing a root weld when I let off the foot pedal of my Miller Dynasty 200. The metal solidified vertically and I had an epiphany. I no longer had to weld on a flat surface. I then made a little hand that came out of the metal. Ten minutes later I started a foot and welded in a circle like a 3D printer.
A week later I had made my very first sculpture. It was a man welding. Ever since then, I have been making sculptures of normal everyday people, from welding men to ballerinas. I love the old Americano, the Norman Rockwell feel of innocence and hard work. Since then, I have started a metal fabrication business. One that does structural welding, prototypes, and more. I set up a full CNC machine shop and giant capacity powder coating and recently decided to get back into the medical business making, customizing, and fabricating surgical instruments. Now, as my employees are working, I get to make the sculptures.
YesWelder: I've seen some of the stunning hand-crafted sculptures you have created -- is this the main form of artwork you create for clients, or do you work professionally with other mediums as well?
David: Metal is definately my favorite, but recently I have been wanting to include glass to the ballerinas. For that reason, I have acquired kilns and glass blowing furnaces and equipment. I want to be able to do it all.
YesWelder: As I alluded to above, your social media pages are filled with beautifully detailed sculptures. Can you tell us about the inspiration behind your work?
I mentioned the Norman Rockwell feel of life, but there is more to it. I am a family man who loves his kids. My daughters are in ballet and my son is in the machine trade program learning how to program CNC machines. I want them to be proud of the things I create. I want them to know that they are my biggest inspirations.
YesWelder: I'd also love to learn more about your design process. How do you go about creating a sculpture? On that topic, what would you say is the most important step in your process of creating a sculpture for a client?
David: When I work on a sculpture, it is well thought out, but only thought out. I will take an image in my head and think about it and move it around completely in my head editing and editing before I ever make a simple image of it on paper. When I am completely satisfied with the direction I want to go, I draw a simple line drawing on the metal table. I proceed by laying wire in the form, and magic continues.
YesWelder: I'm sure that your work can also be difficult. Can you tell us about the some of the common challenges that artists and people in the trades face?
David: Art is certainly something that makes me happy, I do art because I want to, not because I have to. I have however noticed that doing art has helped me to understand welding on a much higher level. I treat the metal not as two solid objects that need to be connected but as a liquid. For me, I feel the welding is more like painting with liquid or molten lava. Turning the stainless into liquid form that I can push, pull, and flow in any direction. Since I have started making sculptures for myself, others have seen it and approached me about making things for them, It is the result of just doing something I love.
The challenge is putting the cart before the horse. A lot of artists want fame and recognition for what they do but without putting in the work that needs to be done. US welders know what patience is. I will say that I was taught at a young age that no amount of success outside of the home can compensate for failure within, so I choose to be -- or try to be -- humble and let the jobs or commissions come when they come, and just keep plugging forward.
YesWelder: This may be a tough question, but do you have a favorite project or sculpture that you created?
David: The truth is I don't have a favorite. My father would always tell me that I should never fall in love with my art and that I can always do better. That has always pushed me to do better and never be satisfied. Once a sculpture is finished, I tend to forget the whole process or challenge of making the piece. Already, I am on the next idea.
YesWelder: What advice do you have for young people who want to become involved in the trades? More specifically, what advice do you offer young people who want to learn a trade, but enter a more creative career path?
David: This is probably my favorite question. I am now on the board of several welding schools that are trying their best to enroll and bring people into the trades. The sad fact is that there are fewer and fewer people enrolling in the welding trades but the demand for welders has only increased exponentially.
Recently, I have had a female intern with me from an art school, she had no experience welding but took to it really quickly. After her time was up, she asked me if it was possible getting a job with her newfound talent. I immediately searched the fabrication companies close to the school she was going back to. The second company I called was so impressed with her abilities that they hired her on the spot. She went from having no prospects with an art degree to making $20 dollars an hour working in the trades.
Not every person is going to learn the way universities teach or retain what they read. I was one of those people that would learn more from watching than from reading. I realized early in my education through the trades that the trades are a firm and steady foundation to grow on. The trades are a tremendous area where those not sure where they want to go or those not fitting in the college arena, can succeed and prosper -- all while not going into a debt load from a college or university. It is very unfortunate that I originally thought less of the trades but after putting myself through them myself, I realized that they are exactly what this country needs right now.