Fusing Work, Play, and Family: Metal Sculptor James Rodriguez

James Rodriguez, a metal sculptor, possesses a steady hand, a keen eye for detail, and a relentless drive to succeed. James has already created some amazing sculptures. He draws his inspiration from his life experiences, family, friends, and his military background. Deployed to Afghanistan from 2009 to 2010, he now finds sculpting to be his therapy and a way to express himself in ways he’s normally unable to. By trade, James is a certified welder, with three years experience running his own welding & metal fabrication business, Vulcan Metal Works. He has been mentored by sculpting professor, and local metal artist, Adam Walls of the University of North Carolina at Pembroke. 

Still early in his sculpting career, James has dedicated himself full time to creating his next masterpiece, using symbolism you can truly understand, and relate to, in his work. 

Thing making your life richer & why: Working on metal sculptures has definitely made my life richer. I find a different type of inner peace when I’m creating. The response I get from people the first time they see my work is warming to the soul; just knowing I was able to create a lasting impression through my art is an unbelievable feeling. Most importantly, though, is being able to physically show people what is truly in my heart, having a way to express myself in ways I’ve never been able to before.

Local artist you admire: Adam Walls is a local metal sculptor that was a mentor for me when I first started thinking about making a transition into art. He told me if I put as much effort into my art as I did my welding/metal-fabrication business then I wouldn’t have a problem at all. I listened. He’s an amazing local artist, one that I look up to a lot.

What is one of your current artistic experiments? I’m actually venturing into the world of clay sculpting and pottery. Working with clay is therapeutic in itself, and being able to sculpt in clay will definitely help me further down the road in my metal sculpting career. Being able to create a small scale reference of a larger statue is perfect for scaling and visual references.

What changed about your practice in 2020? Will you keep this change? A LOT changed in my practice in 2020. I transitioned my business from general welding/metal-fabrication to creating works of art. It was terrifying at first. Being colorblind I never thought I would be the artistic type, until I started welding.

Protective Father & Child 
This piece was made for my daughter. It represents a rusted old father that is trying to protect his untouched child from the dangers of the outside world. Spikes on the back provide protection while still maintaining a soft frontside where the child is. His whole purpose now is to pass on knowledge and love the child unconditionally. With open access to a mended heart, the child is the only one that has unrestricted access, and it remains guarded from the rest of the world. He will protect his child until it is able to protect itself.

Where do you practice your art? Describe your work space. I practice my art right in the garage at my house. Some people call it messy, I call it organized chaos. I’m surrounded by family all the time, and friends stop by on a  regular basis just to see what I’m working on next! I wouldn’t have it any other way! After all, they’re where I draw my inspiration to create.

How do you find your subject (next piece, idea, voice)? Honestly, I’m constantly lost in thought thinking about my next piece. The ideas come at the most random times! It could be anything from a song on the radio, a relationship, a conversation, or random architecture. I’m always open minded and looking for inspiration on a daily basis. It’s easy to miss if you’re not looking.

Advice to newer artists in your genre. Chase your dream, no matter what! If you think you can create, you want to create, then you can! Stop thinking and do. If you wait for the perfect opportunity you will surely miss it! There’s nothing more rewarding than seeing something no one else can, then creating it so they can appreciate your vision with you.

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