Bellevue resident Joseph Dent’s passion for his art began with a college assignment
Bellevue resident Joseph Dent’s metal art hobby fuses his mastery of all things mechanical with his artistic abilities. And it all started with the mascot at Green River Community College.
Dent was a student at the school when he discovered his metal art gift. It happened when his welding instructor, Scott Schreiber, asked him to create an alligator to represent the college’s Gator mascot.
“The alligator was the thing that really changed it into a passion for me,” Dent said.
Even before the Gator forged that passion into existence, Dent was known as a man of many talents. From guns to guitar, from woodworking to fast-car restoration, there were few dull moments in this 32-year-old’s day.
“I’m a very hands-on person. I like creating things,” he said.
Dent’s profession also jibes with his talents.
He fixes airplane seats at Boeing for his employer, Recaro. The seats, made in factories around the world, are shipped to Boeing’s fields in Renton, Seattle, and Everett, where Dent inspects them and fixes any cosmetic, mechanical, or even electronic, problems. Most seats have their own computers, Dent said. Seats contain electrical connections, cables, and mechanical parts that can break during shipping.
While his career fits his mechanical lifestyle, he is always happy to get home and begin working on his hobby of metal art.
He initially discovered his love of working with metals in Jim Ulrich’s metal shop class at Mattson Junior High in Kent. Dent never was overly excited about academics, but he always was eager to get into metal shop class. Sometimes, even a little too eager. His pinkie finger still bears the scar of a incident involving a forged crowbar project that caused a really deep cut.
Dent didn’t have the opportunity to take a metal shop class in high school, but he did take college-equivalent courses via Green River’s Running Start program.
While in the program, he remembers walking by the welding class building.
“It would remind me of my eighth-grade metal shop class and how much I enjoyed it,” he said.
So one day he went in, talked to the instructor, and signed up for the class.
“It turns out, I’m good at welding,” he said.
Dent’s projects quickly surpassed those his classmates were working on, and soon he began making small pieces of art out of scrap metal, similar to doodling on paper.
Schreiber recognized his talent and encouraged him to continue. As Dent’s skills improved, Schreiber asked him to create the school’s mascot.
It was Dent’s first big project, and took an estimated 450 hours and about a year to create. While doing so, Dent spent countless hours studying alligator anatomy. The finished piece, originally set to be about 3 feet, became an 111/2-foot-long alligator that now sits in a cage on the school’s campus.
Another memorable project of Dent’s, a 2½-foot-long steelhead salmon, was gifted to his father.
“After that, I started making more art to give away,” Dent said. For example, he created a 51/2-foot-long sailfish and a small owl for a girlfriend who loves owls.
Occasionally, Dent is consigned to create a specific piece for a paying customer, but he finds the art then becomes more of a chore than a hobby.
Much of Dent’s art is infused with vibrant color created through the use of heat instead of paint. Metal art, in fact, often is uncolored. The brilliant colors that Dent infuses into the art set it apart from the work of other artists.
The use of color is self-taught. Dent experiments with different temperatures that bring out variations and hues.
Dent said metal art is a good way to unwind from the demands of his job.
“I can get in the zone and be in the garage for hours,” he said.