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Fantastic Experience at Van Doren Metal Art Workshop

Van Doren

By Ruth Kaplan

Attention SMA! There’s a new class in town led by father/son team Lane and Alex Van Doren at their Metal Art Studio in the Los Frailes neighborhood. They have recently opened their studio to small groups limited to four students who are interested in learning to produce works of art in metal. I was fortunate to take one of their recent workshops without really knowing what to expect. Curious about what kinds of projects could be accomplished over the course of two days in their studio, I found that sparks did fly, both literally and creatively.

Day one was filled with an introduction to the tools of their trade and the materials we could use for our projects. Everyone in the class got hands-on practice with all the machines under the watchful eyes of Lane and Alex. I have a sculptor brother-in-law who also works with metal. I’ve been in his studio many times watching him work, but it hadn’t occurred to me that it might be something I could do. I had never taken a shop class in school and, as an apartment dweller in my previous life, I never had to fix anything myself, so my exposure to tools and machines was very limited. Learning how to use welders, grinders, buffers, hydraulic presses, and a variety of cutters, shears, and rollers, along with the gauges and finishes of metal was fascinating and empowering!

I mentioned that sparks did fly, but rest assured that working safely was always stressed. Everyone was given an apron, gloves, goggles, and earplugs. We used safety visors when extra protection was needed for welding and grinding. There was plenty of room to work in the airy 2,000- square-foot studio, and the atmosphere fostered by our instructors was friendly and inspiring.

I decided to make a mirror and was drawn to an antique circular shear, which allowed me to cut open circles of varying dimensions, which I could then manipulate into different floral shapes. Lane mentioned that they probably don’t even make this kind of machine any more. Other tools allowed me to cut, bend, and roll leaf shapes and a decorative edge for the frame. Arranging the pieces and using different welders to put it all together gave me a great sense of accomplishment.

Over the course of two days, Lane and Alex impressed me with their patience, skills, and great enthusiasm for teaching. They created a convivial, creative, and fun atmosphere. A delicious gourmet lunch was served both days, during which it was easy to bond with my classmates over a shared experience.

Going home with an artful finished product that I could hang on the wall serves as a daily reminder of the creativity we all possess and the value of trying something new. I look forward to taking another class with Lane and Alex to advance my new skills.

To get more information about this amazing workshop, visit their website, or email them directly at

You can also check out their Facebook Page, VandorenMetalArt, for more information and reviews from other participants.


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