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Welding

Inventive integrity

By Gretchen Salois

Sculptor uses atypical techniques to achieve complex designs

July 2017 - “I became obsessed—I couldn’t do anything else,” says West Palm Beach, Florida-based artist and fabricator Alexander Krivosheiw of his sculpting in metal. Powerful portrayals of movement are encapsulated in aluminum, bronze and stainless steel, using old-school blacksmithing as well as modern welding techniques.

His studies began at the age of 15 where he focused on Greek mythology in Greece, on the Isle of Crete. At this time, he apprenticed with a marble sculptor, carving angels for a church. This helped Krivosheiw form his vision. He soon teamed up with third-generation sculptor and fabricator Kevin Barrett, and was Barrett’s apprentice for 17 years. “I was learning constantly until it was time for me to go off on my own,” he says.

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“Engineering is a necessity while welding the creation of my work,” he says. The complex fabrication in his sculptures warrant, and often lead to, unconventional methods to manipulate metal. This can mean rising by rope and harness to hover over a piece, positioning himself upside down to weld and paint, or breaking pieces apart and rewelding them to achieve the desired effect.

In other words, Krivosheiw invents processes to get the result he wants. He also hides welds without compromising his works’ integrity. Each piece has to be able to stand on its own, even outdoors at the mercy of Mother Nature.

Krivosheiw uses a MIG welder for interior, structural welds to complete long and continuous passes. “It’s faster that way and then I can concentrate on the outside weld to make sure it massively penetrates through the joined metals, which helps later on in the process when I grind it to a mirror finish.”

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Aluminum is difficult to weld and difficult to manage through surface treatments because it needs corrosion-resistant coatings. Krivosheiw added bronze to his repertoire of metals in large part due to its natural oxidization process. “It doesn’t rot like aluminum and you don’t need to protect it with coatings,” he says. “With bronze, you could throw it in New York’s East River and after 12 years, pull it out and bring it back to its original form without much effort.”

Compound curves

Krivosheiw began sculpting bronze after setting up his studio in Florida. “I fell in love with bronze because I found I could really hammer into it much easier than with aluminum,” he says. “You don’t need it to be as thin as aluminum and it forms more consistently.”

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Bronze allowed him to achieve a golden-like mirror polished finish. “This opened up a new style for me, fabricating complex compound curves and aesthetics,” he says. While difficult and time consuming, Krivosheiw says the trouble taken to create a polished finish in bronze is worth the results. He uses multiple grinding techniques to get the mirror finish and often makes his own tools to get into every crevice, including finger grinders to reach in the tightest spots, which he builds in his own shop.

His die grinders have a 1/4-in. altered shanks that allow him to adhere different attachments and grades of sandpaper. “I adjust the rubber and sandpaper thickness to avoid going in too deep,” he adds.

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Grinding is particularly labor intensive but necessary because it allows Krivosheiw to see if his weld has penetrated properly. “It’s taken years because grinding and finishing require a special touch,” the artist says.

He inherited a rolling machine from Barrett, which cuts down on the acrobatic methods he used in the past to manually bend metal. “I’m not hammering metal to create every curve I need,” he says. Krivosheiw’s arsenal of endless clamps to hold the metal in place and jigs to bend it as desired are more easily accomplished with the rolling machine.

“Bending the metal is the fun part,” he continues. “I’m able to turn and form it into the shape I need.”

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Intuitive technique

The balance between textbook fabrication skills and intuition is difficult to find in apprentices. “The type of welding and finishes I’m doing are very difficult from normal fabrication work,” says Krivosheiw. “People think once it’s welded, you can just grind it down—but dig too deep and once it’s outdoors for awhile, the paint will crack in those areas and the piece will break apart.”

Fixing damaged pieces can run anywhere from $15,000 to $20,000. “That initial weld needs to be spot on.”

Krivosheiw isn’t a certified welder, but that hasn’t limited his ability to lay down long-lasting seams. He finds the process therapeutic and refers to it sas his meditation.

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Krivosheiw's pieces are displayed throughout the world, most recently installing a commission at the International Olympic Committee headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland. Krivosheiw crafted the iconic five rings from stainless steel. He designed it so onlookers see reflections of painted colors but not the paint itself. “I’ve moved beyond mirror polishing to the most complicated metal-painting technique I’ve ever done,” he says, which takes more than double the amount of time it takes to grind the steel into a mirror polish finish.

“I paint galaxies and floating stars in hidden areas that make gorgeous abstract colors that reflect on the sculpture’s surface,” he says. “I’m always looking for a technique or tool I’ve never used before; this entire process is intuitive in a lot of ways.

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“I improvise with how I fill gaps in a certain way without using a huge weld or by turning up the gas on my welder and turning the tip out of the TIG and the rod at the same time to get the same effect of a MIG welder where a MIG won’t fit,” he says. “It’s always changing.” FFJ

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