Introducing the first series of Friends Making Art, a monthly interview of inspiring people devoted to their craft.
Meet Heather Lentz, my sis and one talented badass welder. How many women do you know melt steel for a living? That’s right, probably none – and that’s why Heather is an inspiration to us all. Living in the heart of San Francisco she makes a short commute over to her welding shop in a little corner of town infamously known as Hunter’s Point.
Mr. Lentz: Heather tell us a bit about Hunter’s Point and your workshop.
Heather: My welding shop is in SE San Francisco in a warehouse space called the Boxshop. It’s right on the bay in a community called Hunter’s Point, also known as the most dangerous part of the city. Hunter’s Point used to be a bustling naval shipyard, but now is a marginalized community full of crime, gangs, drugs, poverty, unemployment, and murder. It has 1/3 of SF’s toxic waste sites and is home to two of the most notorious gangs around, the Westmob gang and the Big Block gang. It’s a good thing the Boxshop is like a fortress, with 40 shipping containers stacked double high inside the perimeters and lots of barbed wire. I rent a shipping container where I have my own shop set up. Other metal artists and burningman groups rent out containers and we all share a huge warehouse full of machinery and workspace.
Mr. Lentz: You recently created a bit of a masterpiece – care to share?
Heather: I just finished building an extremely kinky steel canopy bed. It has over 350 feet of steel chain attached to it, with chain curtains on all sides, and a sun design in the ceiling part of the canopy. With flowing sheer white curtains, I think it has a sexy hardcore industrial gothic god/goddess quality to it. There are 54 heavy duty steel rings on the bed for tying or fastening anything, and any point on the bed can hold over 600 pounds of weight. This bed is meant to inspire sexuality and creativity. I am currently selling the model below on my Etsy store.
Mr. Lentz: What else are you currently working on and what’s on the horizon?
Heather: I just came out with a series of what I call “Bad Ass Belt Buckles” which are now for sale on Etsy. They are thick shiny steel pieces with strong character. I made the belt buckles out of the Port of San Francisco’s last steam powered pile driver. This old pile driver was a huge and powerful crane-like machine that built SF’s shipping docks for the past 100 years. I happened to save these last big chunks of historical metal, and I used a plasma-torch to slice and dice them up into Bad Ass Belt Buckles. I’m also designing birdcages, kinky furniture, and a few more creative canopy beds. The next bed will be a Garden of Eden themed bed, with a sinful apple and metal snakes all over it. I’m also currently building my own propane powered forge, so that I can do more blacksmithing.
Mr. Lentz: That is awesome.
Mr. Lentz: What scares you about working with metal?
Heather: Well there’s always a serious danger aspect working in this field. I did get electrocuted last week from a faulty ground on a welding machine. As a welder, burns are a normal part of the day but I’m not scared of anything. (Worse case scenario is an earthquake turning our acetylene bottles into high powered rockets.)
I use a Millermatic 211 mig welder that can switch between 110 and 220 electricity which is so amazing. My favorite tool is a 52 cutmaster plasma torch that uses electricity and compressed air to pierce through metal. It runs off of 220 and can cut into half inch steel like it’s butter. On a daily basis I also use tools lincluding chop saws, bench grinders, drill presses, belt sanders, breaks and sheet rollers, hydraulic bending machines, an oxy-acetylene torch. Temperatures are always very very hot.
Mr. Lentz: What is your inspiration and where would you like it to lead you?
Heather: I am inspired by the entire process of metal fabrication. It just feels good to work with metal and there is no limit to where I can see metal work taking me.
Mr. Lentz: Are you following any other artists that inspire your work?
Heather: I am inspired by many other artists at the Boxshop such as Charlie Gaddeken and The Flaming Lotus Girls, who build massive kinetic fire art sculptures and Paul Cesewski who builds bicycle powered carnival rides and who recently handmade a huge steel boat from scratch in about a week.
Mr. Lentz: Tell us something crazy.
Heather: Let me think about that.
If you are looking to support and incredible and flourishing artist please check out Heather’s current items for sale on her Etsy shop:
On Etsy: www.etsy.com/shop/TheWelderGirl
Her Website: www.TheWelderGirl.com