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Editor’s note: This feature originally appeared in the January 2024 issue of Canadian Fabricating & Welding.

Last November, Toronto-based Metal Supermarkets announced the winners of its annual Metal My Way competition, which aims to showcase the versatility and craftsmanship of metalworking, fabrication and design. Out of 870 international entries, Angellos Glaros’ sculpture, “The Blue Heron,” was selected as the grand prize winner.

Metallic inspiration

Glaros lives and works in Nanaimo, BC and runs Glaros Studios/WestCoast Arts. He grew up in southern Ontario, but pursued his interest in art at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, where he learned to work in marble and clay.

After college, Glaros learned woodworking, further expanding his artistic and commercial skills. In the late 1990s, an injury led him to switch to finishing work. From there he developed his woodworking business and opened his own studio in 2000. He built wooden furniture and carved animals, trees and people.

It wasn’t until visiting a metal artist’s studio in 2008 that Glaros was inspired to work with mild steel.

“The artist worked on the oak motif, including the leaves and acorns — lots of detail,” Glaros said. “I was excited, I immediately ran away and found a welder to start learning.”

It now has two welding sources (one for the shop and one for on-site work), two plasma cutters, an anvil, a power hammer and a 6-ton press.

Matching the natural world

What stands out is Glaros’ ability to bring a realistic look to metal that is designed to look organic. For example, he made railings that look like tree branches and a shaker-style dining table base that looks like a tree stump.

“I first shape the metal with an electric hammer,” Glaros explained. “For fences, I would heat the pipe to a cherry red and use a hammer to taper the ends, which creates creases and a natural look. Once it was shaped, I basically laid weld beads down the length of it and filled in some creases to create the shape I wanted. Once that’s done, I sand it, sand it, and then use a sanding pad to get a textured look and just the right smoothness.”

Although texture is primarily achieved by sanding, finishing is just as important.

“At this point I do a chemical bath and spray it until I get the color exactly the way I want it,” he explained. “Then I wash it and apply an automotive finish for the exterior pieces. It helps preserve it better, and it’s the only finish I’ve found that really works well outdoors.”

The metal sculpted features are shown up close.The metal sculpted features are shown up close.

Glaros carved out each feature individually and used a sanding machine to create the lines in the feathers. Then he mixed it all together with a flap wheel sander.

The blue heron

Glaros’ “Blue Heron” required a painstaking process to create the look, including the bird’s neck.

“It was a smooth 12-gauge. mild steel pipe when I started, and I just sanded it,” he said.

“Similar to the feathers, I cut them out and used a sander to create the lines in the feathers and used a flap wheel sander to blend everything together when I was done. Then I place each one on the fly press to curve slightly in whatever direction is needed to make it round.’

In this design, he used a body armature that allowed the finish to flow around the back of all the feathers. For the wings, he used basic armature on the leading edge to achieve the appearance of lightness.

The layered feathers were a big challenge for Glaros because he had to get the finish on the back. To achieve this, he pre-treated them individually before welding to ensure they would not be affected by the elements.

“I had to hang them all in the sprinkler for six hours and make sure no droplets formed on the tips of the feathers,” he said. “Once it was dry, I applied five coats of automotive finish. I use a finish that you can control the shine on it so I can make it fairly flat. It would look bad if it was too shiny.”

The finished sculpture features over 1,200 feathers welded by Glaros. He created a socket and tenon joint to insert them and a screw mechanism to keep them in place.

The whole bird was burned to some extent to add color.

“For example, the beak was heated to a bright red color to get the final dark gray color,” Glaros said. “The feathers used much less heat, but the heat was used to create the variation in color.”

The sculpture took about 450 hours to make. “The Blue Heron” is, in Glaros’ estimation, the best and most complex piece he has achieved so far, but he believes he still has a lot to learn.

The dining table with a walnut top is supported by metal legs shaped like tree branches.The dining table with a walnut top is supported by metal legs shaped like tree branches.

The base of this table is an example of the organic shapes that Glaros can add to furniture with their metalworking and finishing skills.

“I’ve only done one metal sculpture that shows a person, so I think the human face is what I want to explore more now,” he said.

The key is that Glaros remains undaunted by new opportunities to explore.

“I would say to anyone interested in this kind of artistic pursuit, no matter what medium you use, take a life drawing class. Start sketching. It’s all about training your eyes to see what’s there instead of seeing what your brain thinks is there,” he said.

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