Sublime scrap finds the spotlight at Metal Art Showcase

CALGARY – When it comes to artistic apparel, Shane Seib has always gone full metal jacket.

While he’s dabbled in drawing and painting, Seib’s medium has always been metal. He first started applying his artistic impressions in metal at age eight alongside his father Allan, a welder by trade . . . and his mother remembers even earlier beginnings.

“I was welding a toolbox together when I was two . . . my mom went out in the garage, and I had on a diaper and a welding mask, just givin’ ’er,” chuckles Seib, a resident of Sylvan Lake, Alta. “I just like the look and feel of steel. You can age it . . . I’ve got sculptures in my yard that change colour yearly, thanks to rust. And some people think steel is cold, but with the right textures, you can give it a warm effect.”

While Seib pays the bills by building metal furniture through their company, First Impressions, Shane’s pieces — from giant cowboy boots to impressionistic wall sculptures to Easter Island replicas — can be seen throughout Canada, the U.S., Japan, Germany, and Australia. He’s created numerous specimens for country music stars such as George Strait, Garth Brooks, Keith Urban, and Alberta’s own Paul Brandt and Terri Clark.

And four of his latest creations will be on display as part of the Calgary Stampede’s eighth annual Metal Art Showcase, which will be held Saturday, July 10 at 6 p.m. at the BMO Centre’s Palomino Room. An increasingly popular offshoot of the Stampede’s annual World Championship Blacksmiths’ Competition (WCBC), the Metal Art Showcase features art from around the world — some of it created on the blacksmith’s forge, and some of it, like Seib’s, created through other avenues such as welding, cold bending, and stretching.

“We’ve come a long way from straight forged steel to other metal mediums, such as copper and wire,” says Vicki Knapp, chair of the Stampede’s Metal Art Showcase subcommittee. “A lot of blacksmiths have really embraced the (non-forged) category, in order to be as creative as they want to be.

“We think there’s still room for growth in terms of the number of pieces, how far afield the pieces come from, and the number of buyers,” adds Knapp. “We have quite a number of pieces that are submitted to us that are installation size, that would be excellent for a corporate buyer.”

The Metal Art Auction, which begins at 7 p.m. on Saturday, July 10 after an hour of viewing, includes three distinct categories — artistic forging; artistic metal non-forged; and pot luck artistic forging, featuring creations dreamed up on the spot by WCBC competitors under the Big Top earlier in the day, from 1 to 3 p.m. Cash prizes are awarded in each category.

Competitors will also vie for the ultimate title of Artistic Forging Champion, won last year by Mike Chisham of Petaluma, Calif.

“It’s quite amazing to me how you can take the same raw item and turn it into so many different pieces,” says Knapp. “You’d think, with the pot luck forging competition, that there’s only so much you can do with scrap metal. But they can take a discarded horseshoe, and one fellow will turn it into a barn door handle, another will turn it into a door knocker, and somebody else will turn it into a maple leaf and a wheat sheaf.

“Even Shane Seib, who’s in the alternative category, will have pieces that are lacquered and colourful, others with a more matte finish, and others still where he’ll take discarded rivets and make a bowl out of them. We’ve also found,” she adds, “that buyers have the most interest in items that are functional and beautiful at the same time.”

Seib’s entries at the Stampede’s 2010 Metal Art Showcase include a “funky” grandfather clock, an Indian headdress of polished steel, a bowl from recycled metal, and a grain auger. Fair warning, though — Seib rarely knows exactly what the finished product will look like when he pulls out the ol’ acetylene torch.

“I incorporate glass and rock, and I’ve got some sculptures that include rebar with chunks of concrete on them,” he says. “Often, with my art, I’ll have buckets and boxes of stuff, pour them out on the floor, and go.”

Anyone can attend the Metal Art Showcase and bid on the items. Complimentary tickets can be procured by e-mailing, or by contacting the Stampede’s agricultural administration office at 403.261.9174.