A Tribute to the Transformative Experience of Welding

Written by: Asra Jawaid
Written by: Asra Jawaid

This fall, art teacher Patrick Camut, of Charleroi High School in Charleroi, Pennsylvania, returned to his classroom with some unusual art terms added to his vocabulary. Among them are welder’s helmet; electric arc; spot welders; acetylene torches, soldering; and T-joints. He learned these terms last spring after enrolling in a certified welder’s program at the Community College of Allegheny County (CCAC) in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Camut, 27, graduated from Indiana University of Pennsylvania in 2012 with 2 degrees, one in fine arts focusing on sculpture and the other in art education. He’s now in his fourth year teaching at Charleroi and taking night classes at CCAC. “Taking the welding class has been very rewarding. I learned a new skill and found a new appreciation for trade school at the same time. Prior to welding school, I only had experiences of a four-year university. But now that I have been exposed to a trade school, I have first-hand information regarding how trade schools prepare students for various careers. Students who opt for trade schools should be encouraged to follow their hearts,” Camut said.

Welding instructor, Cody Stroud (left), with student, Patrick Camut
Welding instructor, Cody Stroud (left), with student, Patrick Camut.

For the Love of Art
Teaching a student whose sole purpose is broadening his artistic skills was a new experience for Camut’s welding instructor, Cody Stroud. Camut’s arrival added “something students coming out of high school cannot offer,” Stroud said. “He brought a different enthusiasm to class and I can only rave about his participation and interest. He wanted to be there and his curiosity about everything in class helped other students. Even though he had no welding experience, Patrick created his project with pristine welds.” Observing his student’s metamorphosis, Stroud referred to Camut as “an inspiration, returning to class to improve his skills, but he was also an inspiration to other students in that he encouraged them to explore the arts. With his background, he added a charisma and positive attitude to class as well.”

One Piece At a Time
Inspired by his positive trade school experience, Camut decided that he “wanted to create a sculpture incorporating the benefits of welding school as a tribute to [his] current education.” He says that Professor Stroud, “embraced the idea for a welding student to build a sculpture and guided me in locating materials, teaching new techniques, and directing me to school administrators who would appreciate the idea.” It was while constructing this project that Camut truly underwent the transformation from teacher to student. “It enabled me to appreciate my role as a teacher more and realize that helping students in the simplest of ways can positively change their lives,” he said.

His vision began to take shape one night when Camut was working in his welding booth at CCAC. He was listening to the song One Piece at a Time by Johnny Cash and resolved to sculpt a figure that could use multiple T-joints. T-joints are used extensively to connect structural members in the construction industry and therefore figure prominently in a welding school’s curriculum. As you might imagine, welding students practice making a lot of T-joints in preparation for their welding certification test. Camut and his classmates became T-joint experts, having worked at least 12 hours a day for 12 days straight, to create a leaning tower of T-joints appropriately called One Piece at a Time. When viewers behold the sculpture, Camut wants them “to see rusty T-joints frozen in time as they travel into a scrap bucket.”

“If one studies welds on T-joints, a trained eye may notice the progression of weld quality as they approach the final stainless steel T-joint,” he explained. “Huge numbers of rusty T-joints that make up the majority of the form are a symbol for how much one must weld before having the ability to produce the welds on the stainless T-joint found on the top of the sculpture. Welding may seem complicated at first, but once one moves beyond the sparks and occasional burns, it is repetition to perfection and the final product.”

Patruck Camut with sculpture, One Piece at a Time. "I learned the basics of welding in art school and now I’m using welding school as a way to master what I love doing." - Patrick Camut
Camut with sculpture, One Piece at a Time.
“I learned the basics of welding in art school and now I’m using welding school as a way to master what I love doing.”
– Patrick Camut

Back in July, Camut and his wife Alison loaded the seven-foot, one-ton steel sculpture into a vehicle for an eight-hour road trip. The duo’s final destination was the Outdoor Sculpture Show, in North Bennington, VT. Joe Chirchirillo, the show’s curator, had seen Camut’s artwork online and invited him to exhibit his creation. During the demonstration, Camut was recognized as the artist who traveled the farthest distance to attend. The show is a “unique experience where a small Vermont town transforms itself into an outdoor art show showcasing more than 30 artists from all over the East Coast,” he commented.

Upon graduating from CCAC in the fall of 2017, Camut will have earned many different welding certifications, including stick, MIG, and brazing in several positions. With his proudly-honed talent, he’d like to create outdoor sculptures in public venues. His welding certifications will allow him to guarantee that anything he builds is safe and durable enough for public exhibition.
“Art should be everywhere for people to enjoy,” Camut declared. “Public spaces that display art from murals to outdoor sculptures are the best way for everyone to enjoy art for free.”

If you are interested in following in Patrick’s footsteps, AWS can help. Visit AWS Learning for a comprehensive selection of welding courses, conferences, and seminars. Check out AWS WeldLink for information about careers in welding and academic opportunities in your area.