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#WhyWeWeld: Frank Ledbetter

Frank Ledbetter is an Alabama-based welder and metal artist with decades of experience, whose work varies from furniture pieces to large-scale public art installations. A competitor on Netflix's new welding competition series Metal Shop Masters, Frank has been recognised for his detailed artwork and for a personal story that has influenced a number of his pieces and helped shape his craft. 

 

Here's our discussion with Frank: 

Firstly, can you tell us about how you became a welder?

My Dad was a metal guy, after World War II he went to school and learned sheet metal lay-out. He worked as a fabricator full time, but had a backyard shop where he did side work. Of course he had a welding machine, so I learned to weld at an early age. I guess I have known how to weld for about 55 years!

There's a large portfolio of work on your website, and it seems that you've created art of many different sizes and for different purposes and environments. Would you say that there is a signature style that is common to all of your art, or do you think that each piece embodies its own style of art?

There is one thing that I do in most of my wall art that is also included in numerous sculptures I have done, and that is my 'signature' puzzle design. But I would say my 'style' is constantly evolving, and my range is pretty wide as far as what I have made and what I plan to build in the future. I like to push myself to take on projects that will force me to try new things and go bigger and better than the last project!


Of course, you're well known for appearing on Netflix's Metal Shop Masters. Could you share how you joined the show?

I was actually contacted by a casting agent for the show who found me on Instagram. He sent me the casting information and asked if I would be interested in doing the show. I did multiple interviews and kept making it to the next step in the process, and finally got the call that I made it on the show! It was a pretty surreal experience.

There must have been a lot of pressure involved in working under a time crunch with TV cameras around you. Can you share what that was like, and what advice you have for others in the trades about working under pressure more generally?

Working with cameras and microphones all around is strange at first, but once you start working you get used to it. Working under pressure can be a good thing if you look at it in the right light. Pressure can shut you down, but for me it is a motivator. There is no time for procrastination when the pressure is on, you have to step up to the challenge. If you can think of it in that way I believe it helps you through those high pressure situations. 

What is your favorite creation from your time on Metal Shop Masters?

My favorite piece has to be the Avatar I did for the first challenge. It was the challenge that I felt I was most able to use my strengths as an artist and it gave me the ability to really bring my life's story to the show.

Finally, we like to ask all welders about their advice for beginner welders. What tips would you offer to a beginner who hopes to make a living from metal art one day?

My advice to a beginner welder would be to make sure you have a passion for what you are doing. Life is too short to be stuck doing something that you aren't passionate about. Welding can open up many doors for you!

Thank you to Frank for answering our questions. Be sure to visit his online store and Instagram page

1 comment

  • Jimmy W Belote: November 16, 2021

    Love your work.
    Love your art.
    Thanks for sharing.
    Jimmy Belote

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