Metal Shop


Will Reeves : Metal Shop Technician


What is the philosophy of your shop?

More than any other material, metal has transformed our civilization. Steel in particular has changed the nature of our architecture, our transportation, our energy system, our households, our armaments. Given this long history, there is a heritage of equipment that speaks to the evolution of human ability. There is also a heritage of tactility and principle that only a material like metal can teach.

In our shop, we strive to honor the rich heritage of metal. Metal can be liquid, glue, clay, paper, fiber, beam, tool, fastener — and knowing how, when, and why it should or can be any one of those things honors the tradition of the material and a way of seeing and engaging with the world. We look at when the material can hold tolerances of .001" (literally splitting a hair follicle into thirds), when it can be fluid, and when it can be made rigid and strong. It’s all part of the dance to seek balance that is inherent in working with metal.


What types of processes and classes are taught in the shop?

In Metals I, our objective is “eye-ball perfect”; we teach skills such as braking, punching, bending, riveting, swaging, forming, and drilling, among many others. In Metals II we progress to “measurable perfection”, focusing on machining, turning, and metrology. Other classes that make use of our shop are Human Powered Vehicles (where we work on drive systems, brazing, and ergonomics) and Chair Design (which utilizes welding and general fabrication methods).


What outcomes for learning do you see from your shop?

Classes are both subjective and objective. These processes don't predetermine outcomes, but rather enable students to explore the potential of their ideas through a medium. Metals I is about discovery and invention, while Metals II is about problem solving, communication, specificity, and consequence.  


What is your background and expertise?

I have an undergraduate degree in sculpture from RISD. In addition to managing the Metal Shop, I am a practicing artist and designer. I also founded Wurks (www.thewurks.com): a sixteen thousand square foot artist resource center in Providence that offers communal access to industrial metal, wood and printmaking equipment; private studio space in a communal environment; and exhibition/event space.

My affinity for metal has driven me to further my studies at a variety of craft schools. My interest and knowledge of metal working range from forming, forging, soldering, brazing, welding, milling, turning, and casting a wide variety of metals. I greatly enjoy pouring molten bronze and iron, long walks on the beach, and those darn welding caps.


What excites you about working at RISD?

What I appreciated about my undergraduate experience was the opportunity to be immersed in art, to learn industrial means, to practice traditional skills, to hone analytical and critical thinking, to access such inspiring professors, to find rich and meaningful mentors, and to participate in the culture of passion and rigor of my fellow peers. It profoundly changed who I am and how I experience the world.  

Working now at RISD as a place maker, a resource, a teacher, and a mentor, my experience continues to be exciting. Now I am not only part of that immersive experience, but I can help foster it. It is rewarding and fruitful to see the success of others in the program and post-graduation. Every day is an adventure.


Metal Shop access

Metals I and the Graduate Shop Experience class give you access to the hand tools and the drill press. Other machine equipment requires taking Metal II.