Jackson’s own man of steelMount View student finds artistic outlet
Jackson — Even as a child, Orrin Harding liked to draw. As a student at Waldo County Technical Center, he enrolled in the welding course because his older brother, Levi, had taken it. He didn't know at the time that he was about to find a new medium of artistic expression.
Now 17 and a junior at Mount View High School, Harding said he likes welding because it has career potential as well as providing a medium for his art. The first welded piece he made was a door knocker in the shape of a wolf's head. He also has made flowers and small pieces of horses, lions and other animals suitable for display on a desk. And last year, he made a phoenix to be used as a fundraising item for the school. His teacher, Jonathan Plengey, bought it; Harding said Plengey has supported his making art with welding.
Harding’s major projects so far have been skeletons of large animals, which he creates out of steel scraps. He currently is finishing up a Tyrannosaurus Rex 3 to 4 feet high and 7 or 8 feet long. He made the 100-pound dinosaur sculpture in such a way that it can be disassembled for easier transportation. After he got it finished, he explained, he decided to do some more work on the legs. He expects to finish the project later in the winter. Along with the Tyrannosaurus, Harding is working on a life-size orangutan skeleton, which he said is close to completion.
His creative process begins with finding a picture of the animal he wants to create. Then he draws lines on it to show where the metal will be cut. Next, Harding uses a soft stone called soapstone to draw the design, including the cutting lines, on the steel. He cuts the parts of the sculpture out with a plasma cutter and grinds them smooth. Then it's time to assemble the pieces, welding them together into the final sculpture and smoothing out the welds. Some pieces he paints with linseed oil to protect them, then heats the oil to bond it to the metal, in the process turning it black.
Besides Plengey, he has sold some of his art to other teachers at WCTC and has shown work at the Common Ground Country Fair. He said he is now making some Grateful Dead-related items to be sold in a store in Portland.
Harding said he wants to continue welding, both as a way to make a living, and as a means of creative expression, after high school. Like many another artist, art "helps me express what I'm feeling," he said.
The Republican Journal’s Sarah E. Reynolds can be reached at (207) 338-3333, ext. 101 or firstname.lastname@example.org.