Richard Morgan worked as a welder for 35 years. He occasionally welded gifts for family members and friends, but basically viewed welding as a job, nothing more. That perception changed in 2008 when he and his wife were notified that their only son, Nathan, had been murdered on a California beach.
Richard tossed and turned in bed at night. Sleep seemed impossible, so he went to his workshop instead. Welding metal into new forms eased Richard’s grief, awakened his creativity, and ultimately transformed him into a trailblazing artist and metal sculptor.
Richard and Sue have been married for 33 years. Sue is his inspiration. Daughters Nichole and Christina and their husbands help in the workshop from time to time. Their 9 grandchildren enjoy working on jewelry. It was grandson Elijah’s idea to put hide inside one of the bracelets.
Richard recommends that anyone attempting to weld art pieces have intermediate welding skills. Christina is an artist who decided to try welding. She put on protective gear, but the first spark that shot out burned her leg. She decided that welding art was not for her.
Richard's friends call him Metal Man since he welds steel, iron, stainless steel, bronze, and aluminum. He calls himself a picker. He searches scrapyards and John Deere dealerships for uncommon items like airplane and machine parts, bulldozer chains, old doors, horseshoes, metal gates. Word has spread about his work. People drop off things they think he can use. Joe Belinski Sr., a friend and retired businessman, donated a 1970’s Allis Chalmers industrial forklift that has been a blessing. It allows Richard to build larger pieces and has been helpful in constructing his new art studio.
Every piece Richard creates is an original, with no two pieces alike. “When I find stuff to repurpose, that’s where I get ideas. The inspired part of it just comes out. I don’t know how.” Creating something new puts him in a good mood. “The only thing I can compare it to, in terms of the same kind of high, is riding a motorcycle.”
Richard’s most challenging project was a totem pole with an assortment of faces attached. Faces is made of steel and weighs at least a ton. It was built on the floor of a garage, loaded on a truck, and taken to a friend who helped pull it upright and take pictures. It is currently located in Richard’s front yard, along with several other distinctive sculptures.
“It made me think how fragile life is. We’re running around, worrying about how much sleep we get, if our taxes are paid, grocery shopping. The world spins, but it could all be over tomorrow.”
Instead of a bell, he hung a handcrafted globe on the pole and placed a bird’s nest inside. He named it Hanging in the Balance. The Welding Journal of the American Welding Society featured Richard and his work in March 2016.
He says, “It’s nice to receive awards, but that’s not the goal. The whole thing is to create something that someone else enjoys and watch their eyes glaze over. The expressions and comments when people see my work is the reward.”
“My goal since day one has been to go to Jackson Hole, Wyoming. I think the western and rustic pieces will sell well there.”
He searches the internet for opportunities, allowing museums and businesses to borrow/lease his sculptures. He currently has three sculptures on loan: two in Michigan and one in Colorado. This is a win/win situation. The borrower pays an annual fee to display the sculpture at their location, and in turn showcases Richard’s work to potential buyers. “You have to set feelers out all over. Word of mouth helps.”
His advice to other artists: “Just keep at it. You have to take baby steps when growing your studio or business. We started in a minivan, then two minivans, then a van and a trailer. Now we have a box truck with a lift gate and we pull a trailer behind.”
Last December, a clothes dryer overheated and started a fire that gutted the inside of Richard and Sue’s home. It took 2-1/2 months to sort through the rubble. They currently reside in a mobile home in their driveway while the interior of their home and the art studio are rebuilt. This setback has not slowed them down. Richard is scheduled to exhibit at 16 art shows all over the country this season, including Jackson Hole.
To view Richard’s art, call 419-345-9734 or visit online:
www.richardalanstudios.com and www.artprize.org/richard-morgan
Published August 2016 in Boomers Today