Welder-turned-sculptor shapes metal into art

By Jeb Inge

Considering the detail and maturity of his work, it would be easy to think that John Urbanski studied sculpture. His most recent work — a statue featuring a couple embracing under an umbrella (at left) — sold for a nice chunk of change. But 26-year-old Urbanski’s education was in welding, not sculpture.

Urbanski’s studio is a converted garage in Front Royal, only a few feet from his mother’s house where he rents a room and helps out. It was his mother’s career in welding and art that led him toward a similar career path. There are beehives producing honey in the backyard. Springsteen is playing on his iPod. The whole operation has an appropriately cozy, worn-in feeling.

Very few of the typical artist cliches apply to Urbanski — least of which being pretension and snobbishness. Those that do — creative integrity, technical prowess — shine through in his work.

Using old metal found in countless random places (he has yet to use a manhole cover he found on a worksite in Warrenton), Urbanksi creates a variety of work, from the life-sized statue of a couple, to desk items like an Atlas-inspired stick figure with the world on his shoulders. He sells many such items on consignment at stores in Front Royal. And while he also does work on commission, Urbanski most enjoys the art which comes naturally and is created with fluidity.

While he loves the prospect of making money through his artistic endeavors, working through the creative process and shaping his artistic vision remain the most gratifying part of his work.

For now, he enjoys the balance in life between welding and sculpting. That sentiment defines his work: metal once used for industrial work given new life as compelling works of art. It’s a lot of work at both ends of the process.

Fortunately, the tools are the same for both.

To be considered for an artist photo profile, contact Jeb Inge at 540-465-5137 or by email at jinge@nvdaily.com.