Sculpting a learning experience

Before this summer, all Jackson Watkins knew was that he loved two-dimensional art.

He worked with graphic and digital art, as well as watercolors, which gave him the opportunity to express himself through the juxtaposition of colors and ideas.

However, he was ready to grow in his artistic pursuits, and that led him to interview for the 2009 Sloss Furnaces Summer Youth Apprenticeship Program. There, he learned to work with metal to create sculpture.

“Two-dimension is way different than three-dimension,” Watkins said. “It was just kind of a chance to learn something new and get better at art all together.”

The eight-week youth apprentice program began in June, and Watkins was soon plunged into a world of hard work. For his final sculpture, he needed to make a mold of his hand, which ended up taking almost two hours to complete.

Once the mold was complete, he began working on his sculpture, which ended up as an outstretched hand with puzzle pieces cut out. The sculpture alone took an entire week of five-hour workdays.

Watkins said his sculpture, titled “Disassembly,” represents the growth process everyone has to go through to transition from childhood to adulthood.

“It just became a statement about how you are when you grow up, when you become a person and an artist,” he said. “The hand as a whole is kind of you as a person, and the puzzle pieces are the things you’re missing that will make you who you’ll be.”

Working on the metal sculpture taught Watkins about patience, he said.

“It was tedious, and I got frustrated with it sometimes,” he said. “It’s a real long, drawn-out process. It does make you happy to see how it turns out, especially after all the blood, sweat and tears you put into it.”

His work, along with the work of other youth apprentices, will be on display at the Birmingham Museum of Art Sept. 20-Nov. 29.

The Public Broadcasting Service also worked on a documentary about the program, set to air later this fall.

Watkins, now a junior at Chelsea High School, said he plans to pursue a career in graphic art.