For metal artist Jeff Whitaker, his profession is a perfect match for his personality. “I’m an adrenaline junkie, who thrives on intense experiences,” he says. “Metalworking fascinates me because I’m actually melting metal using extreme temperatures. I’m able to coax around a liquid using intense heat, and there’s a lot going on when that happens, so I never get bored. I love to weld.”
Originally from Cincinnati, Whitaker studied at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and then moved to Sun Valley, Idaho. “I didn’t move there to ski; I moved there to work,” he says. “Sun Valley had a thriving art and real estate market, and I did a lot of site-specific commissions for clients.” While living there, he met his future wife and they eventually moved to Portland.
Whitaker works out of a studio in an industrial neighborhood, where he makes furniture, architectural metalwork and sculptures. His pieces incorporate a variety of materials such as wood, stone and glass. “You can’t do metalwork around other people’s homes,” he says. “It’s very loud, and sometimes I have materials delivered on 20-foot trucks, so I need to have space.”
He fabricated this glass-topped coffee table (below) from sheets of 16-gauge mild steel. “It’s thin and easy to bend,” he says. “I’ve created corners and buttressed joints where there are stress loads to create rigidity without having to use an excess of material.”
The shape of the table’s legs reflects Whitaker’s interest in natural forms. “I’ve been working in this direction for a few years,” he says. “I design organic forms that look like tree trunks or a shape water makes as it flows along. Water moves material in ways that are very efficient. You can use computer programs to design structures where you add and subtract materials to find out how to use them most efficiently. What the programs come up with often looks very organic. I do the same thing with my designs intuitively. The most elegant and efficient use of a material often resembles an organic, biological form.” The 17-inch-tall and 44-inch-long coffee table is $1,500.
Contact metal artist Jeff Whitaker via his website, jeffmade.com. His work can be seen at the Springbox Gallery (2234 N.W. 24th Ave., 503-228-1600 or go to springbox.us) in Portland.