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Macho welder creates delicate hummingbird sculptures

This tough-looking artist creates unexpected sculptures that combine the flowing shapes of nature with the rigid roughness of steel.

HELOTES, Texas — Jeff Sellers is a manly man. He works with his hands, listens to Metallica and drinks Shiner beer. He went to school for underwater welding, and while he ended up doing structural welding instead, his whole career has been working with metal. These days, he works at the Southwest Research Institute testing vehicle fluids and training newer technicians.

Three years ago, he started a new hobby in his garage, and now, at 58 years old, Jeff spends his free time doing something a little different than the structural welding he’s used to.

Hummingbirds.

Credit: Mat Gaskins

Flowers.

Credit: Mat Gaskins

Intricate wall-hangings with vines and leaves.

Credit: Mat Gaskins

These are all metal sculptures Jeff made from scratch. It started with sculpting flowers as gifts for his friends and family, then a coworker asked for a hummingbird sculpture for their grandmother’s birthday.

“I try to keep that macho image, especially at my age, but I made it and it came out really pretty,” Jeff said of his first hummingbird. After he put photos of the hummingbird online, the requests for more began flooding in. He’s since sold dozens of commissioned art pieces.

Because he can only work on his art at night or on weekends, each project takes him weeks to finish. One hummingbird alone can take him more than thirty hours to complete. Each leaf must be cut out of sheet metal, grinded, texturized, shaped and welded to a stem. It’s time-consuming work with no shortcuts.

Besides the patience required to create his art, Jeff has also learned to work with a gentler touch than structural welding requires. “If you get too aggressive, you’re just going to ruin something, and I’ve done that many times,” he said. The tools are smaller as well.

Credit: Mat Gaskins
Credit: Mat Gaskins

Jeff plans to retire at the end of the year, which will allow him to focus on his art full time. He says there are many things about being an artist that are new to him and he needs to learn, but as he puts it: “You’re never too old to start something new. Ever.”

Jeff's work can be view at his website: www.jeffsellersmetalart.com

Credit: Mat Gaskins