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An Interview with Ivan Iler, Master Metalworker & Sculptor

Located in the heart of Michigan, Saint Johns is home to Ivan Iler, an artist with a very unique set of skills. Whether it be sculpting, carving, painting or working on motorcycles, Ivan shows craftsmanship and passion in all of his many trades—yet his pride and joy is metal sculpting.

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Ivan’s metal sculptures can take the form of almost anything, ranging from animals, people, plantlife and objects, all with a unique twist that makes the piece his own. Recently we caught up with Ivan, and he was kind enough to answer a few questions about his life and art:

Q: How did your artwork start out?

I started off by drawing when I was a kid. I remember drawing a lot in class. I was never really the best student, but I soon discovered I had a talent for artwork.

Soon after that, one of the teachers at my school introduced me to welding through the class he taught, although I never took the class, I still used the shop after school to work with the equipment. Once my welding skills were developed, I started building and working with motorcycles. I remember even further back when I was a little kid I would take apart toys and see what I could do with each individual part.

I’ve always been a bit of a freethinker, with my head in the clouds, but I think that has only benefited my creative thinking and artwork. I think I can say this is where my passion and interest for art began.

Q: Do you have a role model that you’ve drawn inspiration from when designing your art?

I don’t really have much of an inspirational figure, although I remember really appreciating Leonardo Da Vinci’s work when I was a kid.

I remember I accidently wrote my name backwards when I was around 6 or 7 every once in a while, and it would really get me frustrated. My grandma eventually told me that Da Vinci wrote all of his notes backwards on purpose, and bought me a book on his artwork. That made me feel a lot better about my mistake, and it also got me interested in all of his inventions and artwork.

Q: What does your art aim to say to your audience?

I don’t really want anyone to feel any given way when viewing my artwork. Whatever they see is what they see. I’m not trying to convey any specific messages. I make what I want to make and they can choose to perceive that in any way they choose. That’s the beauty of art.

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Q: How do you get ideas for each piece of art?

There isn’t one particular way. Sometimes I’ll just be free thinking or lost in thought and an idea will come to me. Other times I’ll wake up from a dream and want to sculpt a piece of art after what I saw in that dream. I don’t have any constant methods to come up with ideas.

Q: How has your art evolved over the years?

My art is always changing—whether it be my sculptures, woodwork, paintings or drawings, I feel like I’m always getting better. It all just boils down to to the drive. I like to say that I’m a collector of experience, and am always looking for new ways to express myself.

Q: What is the scope of your artwork?

I work with clay, wood, leather, paint, engraving and even tattoo art on top of metalwork. Being a motorcycle engineer leaves me with a lot of metal to work with, which I use for fabrication and blacksmithing as well as my sculptures.

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I enjoy all of these forms of art and aim to keep expanding my expertise to different areas in the future.

Q: Where do you have artwork displayed?

I have public pieces in Lansing, Saint Johns, Baldwin and Mason. I have smaller pieces in galleys and shows in Lansing, or you can check them out in my shop in Saint Johns. I’ve also been writing more proposals in order to do more projects around the state.

Q: What’s next for you in the future?

I’ll be writing more proposals over the next few weeks, competing in local sculpting competitions and dedicating one of my most recent sculptures to the nearby township of Baldwin.

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The sculpture is a large metal brown trout, and is actually now the largest brown trout sculpture in the world! It’s projects like these that really give me motivation in showing that I am improving my trade, and gets me excited for future projects.

Special thanks to the Arts Council of Greater Lansing and Ivan Iler for sharing this interview! For more info about Ivan and other Lansing, MI artists please visit Ivan Iler Studios or lansingarts.org.

*Note: this post may contain affiliate links*

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