David Madero isn’t your typical sculptor. He doesn’t wield a chisel, and you won’t find abstract shapes or Greek goddesses in his workshop. Armed with a welding torch, the Mexican-American artist forges breathtaking, towering sculptures that range from the epic to the macabre. One of Madero’s most notable pieces is the Mexican coat of arms. The soaring metal fixture consists of a highly-detailed, golden eagle perched atop a prickly, lifelike cactus. Inside the eagle’s mouth hangs a frightening snake with bared fangs. The piece is a great example of welded art at its best. In his shop, you’ll also find intricately-textured metal sculptures of skulls and metalworkers.
It’s difficult to describe just how impressive Madero’s pieces really are. And yet, many of us cannot make our way down to Madero / Co. in Torreon, Mexico to feast on Madero’s art with our own eyes. Luckily for us, Madero regularly posts photos and videos on his website. The website provides art-lovers and welders a sneak peek into new sculptures, as well as the grueling process involved in creating such stunning pieces. With his metal sculptures and illuminating videos, Madero is beginning to carve out a name for himself. There is a lot to be learned from his company’s ever-growing success.
This week, Madero joins us to talk about how he got started in welding, his technique, and the decision to launch Madero / Co. The sculptor also offers advice for readers interested in pursuing their own artistic side through welding.
Q: Clearly you’re a very skilled welder. How did you learn to weld, and how long have you been welding?
A: Thanks for that! I don’t truly consider myself to be a very good technical welder at all. I probably couldn’t do a good welding joint to save my life. The perfection of welds that I see technically skilled welders make absolutely astonish me! I never had any formal training in welding, but I grew up in my father’s workshop surrounded by welding equipment, and I learned to use it instinctively. I believe that my shortcomings in technique are what pushed me to make such highly texturized works of art.
Q: When did you start trying to sculpt with metal? Did you have a mentor, or did you experiment on your own?
A: My father (Rogelio Madero, 1936-2014) was a master sculptor who specialized in welded art. I grew up trying to imitate him. He did truly amazing things with his trusty old oxyacetylene torch and beat-up MIG welder. To this day, I haven’t met or seen a more talented welding artist. He began using welding techniques for his artwork back in the 1950s, a true pioneer of metal art. I was extremely lucky to have him as a role model.
Q: I’ve noticed that many of the videos and images of your pieces also feature the dramatic lighting of your tools in action. In some cases, the sculptures almost look more whole when they’re still being crafted. Is this intentional? How do you decide when to shoot a piece and when a piece is done?
A: What you observed is completely intentional. Most of my clients were only exposed to the finished product: a shiny, well-lit sculpture on a pedestal. I noticed that potential customers didn’t have a clear idea about the extent of work that is involved in making a sculpture. They never had the chance to appreciate the process of creation as a whole: the grittiness, the noise, the general atmosphere of the workshop, and the amount of sweat, cuts, and burns that are involved in making that finished piece. This was frustrating for me. It was very important for me to show through pictures and videos the amount of craftsmanship that is involved. I strongly believe that inviting the potential client into the process could be just as important as the finished product itself.
Q: On that note, how do you prepare to sculpt? As in, how do you plan the look of your pieces before you start putting ideas into metal?
A: Every piece is different; it really depends on what the client is looking for. Some pieces have a form and style that I am very familiar with. I can start visualizing it from the beginning. Others require a bit of research and planning. When I make speculative pieces [i.e., artwork for no particular client in mind], I usually have an idea that I want to explore, and I can start right away to see where it leads me.
Q: Some of the detail on your work is incredibly intricate. What kinds of welding processes and techniques do you use to accomplish some of your incredible visuals?
A: At the workshop, we use oxyacetylene, stick, MIG, TIG, plasma cutting, and a whole bunch of grinding and polishing. On some sculptures we’ll use one welding process, and on others we might use them all. It all just depends on the type of fabrication involved, and the type and amount of texturing I want to include in the piece. We have a large arsenal of different welding textures, colors, and finishes, and we’re still experimenting and coming up with new and unique techniques. This really makes life fun for us at the workshop!
Q: Speaking of the workshop, when did you decide to start Madero / Co.? What compelled you to start your company?
A: It started back in 2013 through necessity. I began my career producing smaller sculptures that I could easily work on by myself. I was getting commissions for functional artwork, sculptured furniture, public art, and monumental sculptures. I realized that I needed to develop and train highly-skilled metal workers to assist me at the workshop. I also found that I required a support team of structural engineers, industrial designers, and a sales/marketing department as well. As people started to join us, the inevitable happened, and Madero / Co. was born.
Q: What would you say to people interested in learning to weld either as a trade or a form of expression?
A: I would say, do it! No doubt in my mind. The most hardworking, trustworthy people I know are welders. You make great money, and the feeling you get when you go home at night after a hard day of actually making something that is tangible and beneficial to society is indescribable and unmatched by most other career choices. And it may even provide you with the opportunity to tinker around and do some great welded artwork on the side. I always had the suspicion that the future of the art world would be full of artists coming out of trade schools and welding shops. In truth, the art world is also filled with sculptors with no formal art school training, people without preconceived notions about what art should be. This is something that I am very passionate about. I have personally witnessed this at Madero / Co., and I’ve also seen it first-hand through the welded art workshops that I have been invited to give abroad. A lot of people have an interest and desire to express themselves through welding. Hopefully, this includes welders that may be reading this today.
To see more of Madero’s incredible metal sculptures, or to learn more about his process, follow him on social media at:
Snapchat username: maderoco
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