Metal Art by Brad Rice
Hi there, my name is Brad Rice. I wouldn’t ever expect anyone to know me, but if you do, it would be as a 20 year member of Jason Boland and The Stragglers. I’ve been touring the country with the band, playing drums and singing harmony vocals at honky tonks, dive bars, arenas, legendary dancehalls, and even backyard BBQ’s for the last two decades.
Make no mistake; the guys in the band, our crew, and their spouses are my second family. We lean on each other because we are a team, and it is very much a group effort that I am quite proud to be a part of. Saying that much is probably an understatement to the bond I feel with these people, but a few years ago I started feeling like something was missing in my life.
In July of 2014, I gave up alcohol; it was an impediment to me being the best version of myself, so I quit. A few months into this weird newfound sobriety I was getting bored, so I went and visited some friends I knew who worked at a sheet metal shop. I told them I had absolutely no practical shop experience, and the closest I ever came to welding was apprehensively running an acetylene torch to help dismantle the Lambda Chi house dec in 1995 at Oklahoma State. No sir, I was a rookie when it came to applying common sense to anything other than fixing a broken kick drum pedal with less than stellar McGuyver skills.
It didn’t matter to Mike Juliano at A1 Sheet Metal, though, and he hired me on the spot to start the following week. I’m not going to pretend I was a tough guy about this; I was hired on a Wednesday, went out with the band that weekend and started work on Monday morning. A mixture of excitement and dread overwhelmed me that weekend, especially as Grant and I made one of our countless 8 hour drives to meet the bus in a forgotten boonies down way of Somewhere, TX. I had no idea what to expect, plus I hadn’t been up for any kind of work before 10AM in years. Nevertheless, I showed up for work on that Monday at 7AM, nervous and caffeinated.
The first day they sat me down at a welding table and gave me 2” galvanized washers to weld to the inside of a piece of angle iron. I blew through the first several washers, and knowing now that galvanized steel is WAY harder to weld than mild steel, I didn’t do too badly. Mike checked in on me several times throughout that first day, and I think I even slightly impressed him (definitely not). I ended up working for him for just short of three years, fitting and welding steel frames for natural gas meter houses, and helping to build a whole slew of equipment that was eventually shipped up to Standing Rock (save me your grief, protesters destroyed or stole 2 shipments of what we built and the contract was canceled after 3 total builds of hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of custom fabrication).
I am very grateful for what Mike, Brandon, Brian, Ermel, Gary, Chris and Jesse taught me while I worked at A1, and it has become a foundation for my art business, Iron E Custom Art. For about 2 years now, I have been creating custom pieces of metal art by hand.
I’m still finding my own style, but my favorite pieces I have made are metal portraits of peoples’ dogs. I take a picture of someone’s dog and draw them on metal in Sharpie, then plasma cut them out by hand. The various pieces of the dog are welded on one another, which more or less constitutes a metal relief hanging.
Some folks have called it folk art, some just plain old metal art, but it has become a new passion that’s hijacked my brain and is here to stay.
The band has always been a group effort, but creating art is solely up to me, and that concept has been liberating. The outlet is needed, and having art as a focus really kind of keeps me from spinning off into an anxious mess of uncertainty. The whole process is cathartic, and as kooky as this may sound, when I’m really in the groove and drawing well, I absolutely feel like I am channeling the ability from an unknown place. I have always enjoyed doodling with pencils and messing with pastels, but I feel like I finally found my medium, or maybe, the medium found me.
I guess my whole point is to follow your heart when it’s trying to tell you something; I did and am fulfilled in ways I never knew were possible. Hell, I never expected to be getting dirty all the time, or cutting and burning myself I don’t know HOW many times, or buying a pickup truck because you can’t really carry sheet metal in a Ford Fiesta, but I’m so at peace with everything and everyone because of those things, and I wouldn’t change any of it. Dream big, or dream little, but make sure and find the little things that make you happy, and for Pete’s sake swing for the damn fences when you find something you love.
You can check out Brad’s metal art Facebook page by going here.