Alumnus treats welding, educational pursuits like full-time job
Tucked in the middle of a seven-bay detached garage in Orland, Ind., is a space where Chuck Smith arguably does his most impressive work: an eagle sculpture with a five-foot wingspan, an end table with an oversized gear as its surface, a fireplace screen featuring a stenciled buck and doe on its doors.
In all, Smith has crafted more than 30 substantial works of metal art in his fully equipped welding workshop. His numerous smaller-scale projects, such as bracelets, light-switch panels, and napkin holders, can easily fit in the palm of your hand.
Artistic welding has become a hobby for the Ivy Tech Community College Northeast alumnus. He discovered the art form in 2012 soon after he enrolled at the College to study industrial technology. Before that, Smith’s welding experience had been only structural in nature, such as upkeep on his 1946 military-produced Willys Jeep.
At 70, what Smith accomplishes in retirement comes close to equaling what others do at a full-time job.
“The eagle alone took three weeks of solid work, and the pedestal took even longer,” says Smith, who created the sculpture to help his grandson earn an Eagle Scout badge. The eagle is on permanent display in a Mooresville, N.C., city park, where it serves as a memorial to local first responders.
Click on the images above to zoom.
Ivy Tech Northeast industrial technology instructor Brian Barnes says Smith is known for paying attention to details
with his welding.
“Without doing that, the art doesn’t look very artistic,” Barnes says. “He also isn’t afraid to experiment, and because of that, he has learned some new ways to color metal and do other cool things.”
Smith stays challenged by his welding projects as well as his intention to remain a perpetual college student. Beyond a bachelor’s degree in liberal arts he completed in 1997, he graduated with an associate degree in industrial technology this May. And this fall, Smith began work on a technical certificate in machine tool technology to enhance his understanding of machining metals.
“I want aspects of different degrees, and I can do that here at Ivy Tech,” Smith says. “Any piece of knowledge is worth having, and my goal is to learn something everyday—no matter how trivial.”
Smith is passing his own knowledge along this fall as he assumes the role of instructor in a metal arc welding course at the College. He appears to be a natural for the role, having taught multiple topics to hundreds of recruits during his 37-year military career and nearly 25 years of service as an Indiana state trooper.
Smith says one of his personal interests is to encourage more women to learn welding, either as a profession or an avocation.
“When we think about women and welding, we think about Rosie the Riveter from World War II,” Smith says. “Today, there are female metal artists—more than people would suspect—who are mostly brazing and soldering jewelry. I want to support them.”
Smith’s goal would make Rosie proud.
Make your own sparks fly
Ivy Tech Northeast is sponsoring a hands-on seminar on artistic welding beginning Nov. 12. Let your creative sparks fly as you turn scrap metal into artwork for your home through this two-session course. Enroll online.
$125 per participant.
All equipment and materials included.