a r t i s t o f t h e m o n t h
Interview with Heath Satow
by Rocío Heredia
Do you believe the computer has allowed you to do things you may not have been able to do without it?
Certainly. I am able to make far more complex forms than ever before, and do them in an affordable way. Without the computer, I would be forced to create full-scale models and those are expensive and hard to change. Like I said before, in the computer I can do endless variations in much less time, and I can avoid wasting a lot of materials that would otherwise end up in a landfill. That brings up another point about why I like to work in metal - every little scrap is 100% recyclable. There is very little waste created in the making of my work.
Would you talk about the fabrication of the work? Do you execute all the construction yourself and why?
As I said before, I am sort of a control freak when it comes to my work. I suppose it would be like handing your children over to someone else to raise them. By doing all the work myself, I am able to control the quality of every weld, of every bend. Everything is exactly as I have chosen it to be. That would be impossible to do if I gave my work to another fabricator.
I fear that there may be health risks related to your work, are there and how do you handle that?
Yes, that's something that you accept when you enter this business. There are welding fumes that you should avoid breathing, there are dusts from grinding the metal, there is noise that damages your ears, and all you can do is try to take the proper precautions like wearing a respirator when needed. Goggles, gloves, hearing protection, etc. are also necessary. I still haven't had a day where there wasn't some wound on my hands healing, either a cut or a burn. I have about twenty or thirty permanent scars on my hands alone. Sometimes gloves just seem to get in the way and you have to work without them. Even with goggles, I have had chunks of metal surgically removed from my eyes many times. It's not a field for those that can't handle the emergency room!
There seems to be a lot of passion and humor in all your work. What do you consider that makes your work unique?
I suppose it's just that I don't purposely strive towards any particular style. My primary goal is to figure out what will work best in a space. What will be the best piece here? Certainly, you could probably relate my work to some styles, but I never feel like I have to follow a certain path. My style has followed a very organic path that has grown with the types of commissions I get.
What do you enjoy most about working in this medium?
I enjoy so much about it. The biggest thing for me is the satisfaction of seeing something that started in my head, out of thin air, now out in the world for other people to enjoy. This thing grows inside me, I create it, and it goes out into the world. I guess it's like giving birth in a way, except I have much more control over the face it presents to the world! It's just like magic to me every time, I am always amazed that these things didn't exist before, and here they are now - sprung from my mind and my hands. It's really a cool thing to experience…
Has there ever been a time when you wanted to put your work as a sculptor on hold, while you try another Art technique?
No. I have always loved working in the shop so much that I have a hard time even vacationing for more than a few days. I like to take time off, but I always want to "play" in the shop.
How have you found the popularity of the Internet to affect your work?
Mostly it has enabled me to see other people's sculpture all over the world, and share my work with them. I think the ability to share our individual visions betters us all as artists.
Do you consider the Internet as having a positive or negative influence on Art?
Very positive for the reasons I just gave above.
What is your ultimate ambition as sculptor?
I am doing it now… creating things that people enjoy. I would like to have more freedom to pick and choose which projects I do, but right now I usually need to take any large project that presents itself. I certainly reject projects when they ask me to copy someone else's work, or when I feel I am just not the right person for the job. I just want to always be working in my shop and making a decent living. Anything else like recognition and respect are side perks that come with being successful in this field. Whenever someone says something like, "you are going to be famous," I always reply that I have no interest in that; I just want to be comfortable and make beautiful things.
What challenges have you found in your work?
Getting out of bed the next morning after a particularly tough day in the shop is sometimes the biggest challenge! One thing I do a lot is use repetitions of forms in my work, and sometimes I get tired of making the same piece over and over, like the grains in the wheat sculpture. There are well over 200 grains in that piece and all of them are very similar. But, once the piece is done, it all seems worth the effort.
What are your immediate plans? Are you working in a new project?
I am still working on the airport sculpture at the moment, and I am working on proposals for a few more projects.
Finally, What advice would you give a young sculptor just starting and wondering where to start?
Find another sculptor or foundry that has been in the business for a long time and apprentice there if possible. There are so many ways you can go wrong, and it's nice to learn the ropes from someone with experience. Work for minimum wages sweeping the shop floor if you have to, that's essentially how I started. It's a tough way to make a living, and it will help to learn from someone else's mistakes rather than making them yourself.
© 2002, Rocío Heredia, BTDesign Art Gallery
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