A neon red sign flashes to life as Wendy and Pamela Melser flip down their protective visors and sparks begin to fly.

This metal mom and daughter duo cut, melt and shape scrap metal into works of art under the glow of the old "welding" sign.

For four weeks the duo spent their Thursday nights at Tyler Junior College's West Campus as part of the school's first sculpture welding continuing education course.

Ryan Henderson, a calm and quiet instructor full of enlightenment, guides the students. His goal is to open their minds and let their imaginations shape their projects.

"This class is designed to open up one's imagination and teach them about layout and fabrication," Henderson said. "To watch their eyes light up - that's my reward."

By the third class the students were churning out smaller projects in just a few minutes. They honed their skills as they began shaping their final sculpture in their mind.

A large container of junk and scrap metal slowly began taking shape into crosses made out of metal joints and flowers made from nuts and bolts. Some even began making bugs out of the rusty old metal.

The students use everything from welders to grinders and plasma torches to create their art.

Wendy said the class is one of the best Mother's Day presents she has ever received. She particularly enjoys dramatically flipping down her welding mask.

"(Henderson) says you can build anything you can imagine," Wendy said. "I'm loving it." "We haven't burned the building down yet," Pamela jokingly added.

Henderson owns a welding business in Gun Barrel City. When his father got sick nine years ago, he was asked to step in and teach his welding classes.

"I assume it runs in the family," he said. "It's in our blood."

Henderson enjoyed teaching so much that he stuck with it. The new sculpture welding class is by far his favorite course to teach. It is a welcome change from simply teaching the basics and sending the students out into the world.

"It means a lot to me to see family together. It really inspires me to be a better teacher," he said. "If I could let my other job go and do this full time, I would."

The Melser's plan to keep welding and fabricating after the course ends. Wendy said she has some rusty wrought iron that could use some sprucing up.

Twitter: @TMT_Cory


Cory is a multimedia journalist and member of the Education Writers Association, Criminal Justice Journalists and Investigative Reporters and Editors. He has appeared on The Murder Tapes, Crime Watch Daily and Grave Mysteries on Investigation Discovery.

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