Sculpture student forges dreams into reality

Sculpture student forges dreams into reality

Sculpture student forges dreams into reality
January 26
21:37 2016

Kayleigh Bywater | Senior Staff Writer

@kayleighnic0le

It’s Brandon McGahey’s second semester with the College of Visual Arts and Design, and he is already making a name for himself. A sculpture sophomore, McGahey finds himself in a completely different place at UNT now than at this time last year.

Before he joined the ranks at CVAD, McGahey was breaking down math problems and exploring science in pursuit of an engineering degree. Now, on a Sunday afternoon, he peers over his protective glasses at a hammered metal back piece crafted for a red wooden chair he’s building.

McGahey said it all started with realizing he wanted to do something he loved rather than just worry about how much money he would make.

Brandon McGahey welds part of the metal arm for his handmade chair while wearing protective glasses in the art building’s shop.

Brandon McGahey welds part of the metal arm for his handmade chair while wearing protective glasses in the art building’s shop. Hannah Ridings | Senior Staff Photographer 

“Engineering made me feel safe,” McGahey said. “It felt good knowing I wouldn’t have to worry about money or peoples’ judgment. Even though I was good at math and science, that’s not what made me happy or satisfied at the end of the day.”

McGahey had been interested in art and design ever since he was a kid. He dabbled in painting and drawing, but he focused on creating functional and pleasing pieces of art for people through sculpture and woodworking.

Everything from wood to bronze goes into McGahey’s pieces, creating interesting, distinctive pieces for projects and clients.

In the few months McGahey has been part of the art program, he’s already had two internships. One professor even asked McGahey to help with some unfinished projects.

One of the hammered metal arms for Brandon McGahey’s chair, each arm took about 4 hours for him to hammer. Hannah Ridings | Senior Staff Photographer

One of the hammered metal arms for Brandon McGahey’s chair, each arm took about 4 hours for him to hammer. Hannah Ridings | Senior Staff Photographer

He has created multiple pieces of furniture for prospective clients, including a 10-foot-long dining room table and bookshelves for fellow classmates. One of his sculptures was also put on display at the State Fair.

“When I started out, I was learning from YouTube videos and books,” McGahey said. “Now, I’m actually engulfed in the world of sculpture and woodworking, and I couldn’t be happier.”

McGahey has interned under self-employed Dallas fine furniture maker Matt Harmon since last summer. After discovering Harmon’s work online, McGahey sent an email asking to come by the shop to see the equipment, the process and the work.

The drop-in turned into a friendship. When Harmon attended school in Boston in 2013, he said he also reached out to a Dallas woodworker, Dan Phillips, for guidance. Harmon said when McGahey contacted him, he jumped at the opportunity to help another aspiring woodworker. McGahey has been working alongside Harmon ever since.

“If Dan hadn’t helped me out, I don’t know where I would be,” Harmon said. “I wanted to provide the same guidance for Matt that I was given. He was able to see what might go on every day in a shop—the not so glamorous business side, the bumps in the road and the satisfaction of seeing a finished piece.”

Brandon McGahey carefully places the arm on his chair, double checking it will fit perfectly before he attaches it. Hannah Ridings | Senior Staff Photographer

Brandon McGahey carefully places the arm on his chair, double checking it will fit perfectly before he attaches it. Hannah Ridings | Senior Staff Photographer

Although McGahey said he finds sculpting and woodworking therapeutic, there are many challenges on the road to graduation.

While some pieces take only a few hours to complete, others can take months. Measuring wooden components incorrectly or accidentally melting bronze are both simple and common mistakes to make, McGahey said.

Putting his original thoughts into an actual design provides many other challenges. Although he is able to use the studio at school to complete his work, they close at a certain time. He also has other classes to worry about.

“The challenges make what I do more fun,” McGahey said. “When I finish a project, it is the most indescribable feeling to take a step back and see what I created out of a couple planks of wood and a small idea.”

Whether he’s building a large bronze spider or a red wooden dining room chair, McGahey said he will continue to pursue his dream. Despite the lesser salary and people who misunderstand his work, McGahey said he wants to create as many unique pieces of art for people as possible.

In order for the arms to be the shape Brandon McGahey has to heat up the metal before hammering it into place. Hannah Ridings | Senior Staff Photographer

In order for the arms to be the shape Brandon McGahey has to heat up the metal before hammering it into place. Hannah Ridings | Senior Staff Photographer

McGahey’s Sculpture I teaching assistant, graduate sculpture student Eben Hall, described Brandon’s work as more than “just art.”

“It’s something people are going to appreciate every day,” Hall said. “I feel people don’t quite understand that not every person needs a degree in math or science to make it in this world. All you need is a love for what you’re doing.”

Despite the challenges, McGahey said he feels lucky to have so many people supporting his journey in art and to have already been presented with such promising opportunities.

With a few years left before graduation, McGahey said he is looking forward to providing as much of a service as he can to people all around Dallas.

“Taking this leap allowed me to be honest with myself,” McGahey said. “I feel that as long as you’re doing something that you love, everything else will line up like it has for me in these few months.”

Featured Image: Sculpture and art history sophomore Brandon McGahey spends another weekend in the art building’s shop room working on his chair. Hannah Ridings | Senior Staff Photographer

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