Artscene: Metalsmith Bill Sorich creates art with welding tools


The stereotype of a welder is a burly guy perched high on a steel beam, torch in hand, putting the bones of a skyscraper together. Bill Sorich is not that guy.

Yes, Mr. Sorich is a welder, and he undoubtedly has the knowledge and skills to put skyscrapers together. For years the resident of the Santa Cruz mountains above Woodside welded components for nuclear reactors for Westinghouse Electric.

Now, however, Mr. Sorich prefers to wield his welding torches for much more fanciful objects: barbecues that looks like an armadillo, flamingo or a fanciful emu; gates featuring a heron fishing among the cattails, a mountain lion stalking through oak leaves or a coyote howling at the moon; oversized humming birds in giant fuchsias; or a wind sculpture that evokes falling oak leaves.

Woodside resident Nancy Reyering has a stair rail custom-welded for her by Mr. Sorich, which she calls "the most substantial and beautiful piece of art we will likely ever own." The rail, designed by local architect John Hermannsson was inspired by Marcel Duchamp's "Nude Descending a Staircase." It was laid out in Mr. Sorich's workshop, then transported and welded on site, she said.

Portola Valley landscape designer Danna Breen has used Mr. Sorich's creations in many of her garden designs. "His gates, handrails, trellises and sculpture are like gifts, the added special touch," she said. "When I add a piece Bill has designed, the garden takes on a kind of magic, loved quality."

Mr. Sorich has also worked on many big Silicon Valley estates, among them the Djerassi SMIP Ranch, the Thomas Fogarty Winery and Neil Young's property.

But even when he's not working on a custom job, Mr. Sorich keeps on welding. His property is filled with his work, including a lap pool he welded together a few years ago. The welded arbor above it holds solar panels that can heat the pool to hot tub temperatures. A swing near the pool is a re-purposed antique farm scraper that was once pulled by horses.

A graduate of Woodside Elementary School and Woodside High School, he grew up on Mountain Home Road in Woodside. "I was a little dyslexic, but they didn't know what that was," he says. "I couldn't pass Algebra I, but when I got into welding," he found a calling.

He completed a two-year welding program at the College of San Mateo and then went to work for Westinghouse Electric, which "was like a Ph.D. in welding," Mr. Sorich says.

He left Westinghouse to build his own home, and never went back. "I started working for people with custom homes," he says. "They wanted nice railings and stuff. I wanted to be an artist."

He has had to, at times, do the more traditional welding, repairing tractors or trailer hitches. "Luckily, the tools worked both ways," he says. "They would do art work and they'd do industrial."

Contact Bill Sorich by calling (650)949-0761 or emailing BillSorich@earthlink.net. His website is BillSorich.com.

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