A metal in the woods – a metal sculptor in a community of woodcarvers

A metal in the woods – a metal sculptor in a community of woodcarvers

Aside from being famous for its rice terraces, Ifugao is known for its army of master woodcarvers, their famous works spanned through the ages and graced many museums across the globe. When one thinks of sculptors in the Philippines, the Ifugao woodcarvers will surely come to mind.

But once in a while, we are presented with someone deviating from the norm to surprise us with a different perspective. Kelvi Galap is a 28-year-old metalworker from Lagawe, Ifugao who recently picked up a hobby of creating metal sculptures from discarded car and motorcycle parts. 

This train’s main component is an engine oil filter and the artist called it the Filtrain.

He recently showcased his talent during the Department of Trade and Industry’s (DTI) Fiestakucha at the Hotel Supreme in Baguio. Having picked this hobby only recently, he has shown surprisingly excellent artworks. We can say he is a natural, a gifted artist.

It is always fascinating to explore the world of metal sculptors like Kelvi who harness their talent to transform scrap materials into stunning works of art. 

Metal sculptors who specialize in using scrap materials are a remarkable breed of artists who possess a unique ability to see beauty and potential where others see only discarded waste. They breathe new life into old, forgotten metals, crafting stunning sculptures that not only showcase their artistic prowess but also promote sustainability and environmental consciousness. 

They are visionaries who possess an innate ability to envision the final form of a sculpture within a pile of discarded metal fragments. This creative vision allows them to select and assemble pieces that, to the untrained eye, may seem unrelated, but when expertly combined, result in breathtaking artwork.

One of the most compelling aspects of scrap metal sculptors’ work is their commitment to sustainability. By utilizing discarded materials that may just end up in landfills or rusting in junk shops, they play a vital role in recycling and reducing waste. Their work serves as a powerful reminder of the potential for recycling to be both environmentally responsible and artistically inspiring.

Kelvi started as a mechanic having studied automotive mechanic, but with an unsatisfactory income, he changed his career to metalcraft working under his uncle as a welder creating metal furniture, trusses, gates, grills, and many others. 

A metal horse.

With two children to take care of, he eventually started his own metalworks. At one time, he saw on YouTube an artist creating metal sculptures from discarded materials. He thought he could do it and experimented to create something from discarded motorcycle bearings. From these two bearings, he created a miniature motorcycle. When friends and clients saw his work, they were enthusiastic and this encouraged him to create more.

Only four months after he created his first piece, he was able to create several masterpieces. How he was able to create these excellent works after only a short time of learning about it makes us believe that he is indeed gifted and that the natural talent of the Ifugao people in creating sculptures is inculcated in his genes.

Looking further at his life, when he was young, he used to roam around his father’s repair shop where he used to play with discarded scrap metals. His father was like him, a mechanic and metal worker. He said he didn’t have toys and that the discarded scraps around the shop became his treasured playthings. His childhood experiences made him familiar with metal scraps at a very early age. He eventually found himself still playing with discarded metals, but this time to create something new.

Today, he buys scraps from his friends who own repair shops. The challenge is finding the right pieces for his projects. If he needed more materials, he would buy from junk shops but they tend to be more expensive and harder to scavenge among big piles of heavy metals. He prefers to reserve from his friends but it will take a while. But the act of searching for and repurposing these materials becomes an integral part of his artistic journey.

According to Kelvi, working with scrap metal presents its own set of challenges. Materials may be rusty, corroded, or damaged, requiring meticulous cleaning and restoration. He must use a variety of techniques, including welding, bending, and shaping to transform these raw materials into their desired forms. The process can be physically demanding and requires both skill and patience.

The Cyborg Eagle – a broken wooden eagel was given a new life with metal parts.

Kelvi draws inspiration from a wide range of sources. Some focus on natural themes, creating sculptures of animals, plants, or fantasies. He has also explored abstract concepts, pushing the boundaries of creativity and imagination. A broken wooden eagle was combined with metal scraps creating a cyborg-looking mighty eagle, a sail ship inspired by the Black Pearl in the Pirates of the Caribbean Movie, a steam train with the main component made of a car oil filter and the artist named it Filtrain – each piece tells a unique story, reflecting the artist’s perspective and the history of the materials used.

As we witness these art pieces, we envision this artist will soon have a significant impact on the art world and society at large, his creations celebrated for their innovation and resourcefulness. These masterpieces encourage viewers to reconsider the value of discarded objects and question the throwaway culture that prevails in modern society.

Kelvi’s works inspire us to see the world through a different lens, one where beauty can emerge from chaotic and greasy places, and where every piece of scrap metal holds the potential to become a work of art.

We hope to find more people like Kelvi, artists who specialize in working with scrap materials to stand as champions of creativity, sustainability, and ingenuity. People whose ability to transform discarded metals into beautiful sculptures showcases the power of human imagination and the potential for positive change in a world grappling with environmental challenges. 


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