Fabricators are the silent heroes of the contemporary art world. They do the heavy lifting for artists and may even offer technical advice and project management services to complete a big art project.
Fabricators then bring art to a whole new level. Thanks to them, an artist does not have to scale down ideas to a solo endeavor. Instead, they can outsource a fabricator’s technical skills and expertise to bring complicated and bigger art projects to life.
This blog post will guide you on becoming an artistic fabricator. You will learn what welding processes to master, what machine to buy, and how to penetrate the exciting world of art fabrication.
The Significance of Fabrication in Contemporary Art
Today's art has become more focused on the idea. Artists, critics, and patrons have embraced the marriage of technology and artistic skill and seen the possibilities of better, bolder, and even bigger artworks.
That's why execution has taken the backstage, overshadowed by the materialized imagination of the artist. Whether a sculptor like Jaume Plensa or Yoko Ono created a ten-foot public art piece with their own hands wouldn't matter, so they outsource the labor to others—fabricators, for example.
What an Art Fabricator Should Know About a MIG, TIG, and Stick Welder
If you want to go down the artistic route, you should know which welding processes will help you create excellent parts and components to make sculptures, both small and large.
Whether you are a complete beginner or have some welding experience, read on to learn a thing or two about the different welding processes.
The difference between TIG welding and MIG welding
Both metal inert gas (MIG) and tungsten inert gas (TIG) welding are necessary to make beautiful metal art sculptures.
On the one hand, MIG welding is for processing macro-level details on a metal workpiece. Things like creating a metal bunker the size of two SUVs or putting together steel plates for a full armor project require joining large metal chunks with speed and precision. And that's where MIG shines the most.
On the other hand is TIG welding, a process for micro-level detail. It requires steady hands, and you'll be using both of them. One hand will hold the TIG torch, and the other will hold a metal filler rod.
If you're building a small figurine inside a two-inch-wide tube, TIG welding can help you smooth things out. Another convenient thing about TIG welding is that it can help you put two or more metals together. So if you're working with steel and metal, you can easily join them together using TIG.
What about stick welding?
Stick welding is a versatile process. It shares some characteristics of MIG and TIG: stick welding can also join different metals together and handle thick metal sheets.
Using stick welding is also more convenient than MIG and TIG, which need a separate gas shielding tank. A stick welder has its own shielding gas emitted by the stick electrode, a very handy process if you suddenly run out of shielding gas.
Getting a MIG, TIG, and stick combo welder
Learning stick, TIG, and MIG welding processes take time and work. If you want to get in the game fast, you need to learn them all together.
The good news is you don't have to buy a separate welding machine for each process. MIG, TIG, and plasma combo welder machines can switch to your desired welding technique. All you need to do is get the right gear and accessories to match the machine, and you're good to go.
Popular brands such as Miller and Lincoln Electric offer the best MIG/TIG combo welder. They’re loaded with great features, and beginners and experts alike can use them. These machines cost around $2,000–3,000 depending on the size, the number of features, and the power of the machine.
Getting Started with Art Fabrication
If you have a multiprocess welding machine and have practiced enough MIG, TIG, and arc welding to be confident, it's time to make some art. But learning welding skills is one thing, and making art is another. So here are some tips for you to hit the pavement with tires screeching.
Conceptualizing art fabrication projects is just like any other art conceptualization. Here's a review of the steps.
- Define the message and goal. Do you intend to express a subversive message or perhaps move the crowd with your sculpture? Define what you want your art to express, and be clear about the message. The clearer it is in your head, the more likely your audience will catch it.
- Do your research. Some artists have delivered the same message or goal with their art. Seek out their work and draw inspiration from it.
- Develop the concept. At this point, you may already know what you want but need to work on finalizing the vision. Think about what components you'll need, what processes you'll use, and how big you want the project to be—this is how you develop the concept.
- Create the initial concept. Once you've got all the details down, it's time to put the initial draft of your art piece and get to work.
Choosing your material
Your choice of metal will affect the quality of your work. Depending on your skill level in each welding process, some metals may be tougher to weld than others. For example, aluminum is a high-maintenance metal that requires a lot of pre-weld cleaning. If you think your art piece needs aluminum as a base material, you'll have to be prepared for the challenge.
Below are the things you should consider when choosing a metal.
- Strength. Does your material need to be tough enough because people will hold it? Consider strength in terms of how tough the metal is.
- Corrosion resistance. Does your material need to withstand the elements, or will it sit in a dry room? If you're displaying it outdoors, it's wise to choose metals that can withstand corrosion, such as stainless steel.
- Weight. As a rule, choose the metal's weight depending on the project's scale. Are you working alone, or will you have people working for you? How large is your project? Using lighter metals for large-scale projects and heavier metals for small ones is a good rule to follow.
- Malleability. Does your project need curved parts to work? If so, choose a metal that’s easy to bend. Steel and aluminum are good materials for malleability.
- Ease of handling. The metal you choose needs to match your welding process. It should also require a lot less maintenance if you can help it.
- Cost. Finally, you have to consider your budget. If it is a passion project and you're pinching pennies, you may want to scout for cheaper metals. If it’s commissioned work and your client has the budget, have fun getting high-quality materials.
Determining your welding process
Finally, you’ll want to consider the welding process you will use. You can do projects with strict MIG, TIG, or plasma combo welder processes. You can also do projects that use several of them.
If you’re a beginner, it's best to work on an art project using only one process at first. We suggest starting out with stick welding, then moving on to MIG, and lastly, doing a project using TIG welding. This way, you hone your skills for each process to become ready for more complex work.
If you mean to master all the processes without eating up your savings, go for multiprocess welders. They’re practical for anyone who's just starting out.
Tips on Turning a Profit from Art Fabrication
Once you've done a few art pieces and are confident with your fabrication skills, it's time to see if you can make money off of making art. Take these action plans for starters.
Showcase your best art pieces.
Your work needs an audience. If you have done several, we're pretty sure you feel really good about some of them. So why not show them off?
You can start with a garage sale or join bazaars to know if they have value. If they get a cold shoulder, cheer up and just continue making more until they grab people's attention.
Make it legal.
If you’ve sold enough art, it’s time to go legal. Come up with a good name for your art fabrication business. Then, register it. This way, you will have a legitimate business face when you sell your work to buyers. Having a business name makes it easy for your customers to recommend you.
Create an online presence.
Art fabricators seldom get the attention of regular consumers. That's why it's important to build an online presence. To capture a wider audience, be sure to establish the following:
- Website. If your customers don’t ask for a business card, they'll ask for a website. So, have one ready. And if you're selling art fabrication, your website should express that.
- Marketplaces. List your art pieces on legitimate online marketplaces such as Amazon, Etsy, or eBay. These sites have an established consumer base, so you'll have an easier time attracting customers.
- Social media. Be sure you also have a social media presence. In most cases, you'll get inquiries on your social media pages rather than your website.
- YouTube. If you can create video content about your craft, set up a YouTube channel and post high-quality content. You can drive traffic to your channel and use it for selling your stuff eventually.
Stick, TIG, and MIG Welder Combo for Art Fabrication Success
It’s clear that fabrication plays an important role in art. And to be a fabricator that lands commissioned art projects, you’ll need to master the welding processes mentioned above by getting a reliable MIG, TIG, and arc welder combo.
If you want to find the best brands to practice your stick, TIG, and MIG welding, browse our collection of blog posts. Welding Buddy provides loads of information to ensure you’re making the right purchase. After all, a multiprocess welder is more than just a piece of equipment—it’s an investment.