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Leah Aripotch (IG: @leaharipotch)

Welcome to this week's #benchmarkspotlight (formerly the #weldershowcase) - we had the opportunity to sit down with Leah from @leaharipotch and talk a little shop.
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Enjoy and Grind On!


Name:  Leah Aripotch
Business Name:  Leah Aripotch Studios
Location: Oakland, CA
Socials: IG: @leaharipotch
Specialties:  Metal Sculpture
Tell us about yourself - what inspired you to get into your trade? And how long?
I got into metal arts by way of art school. I was originally a painting major but switched to sculpture later on, and specialized in metal sculpture. I think I gravitated towards sculpture because I like working with my hands and creating things that get to exist in the 3rd dimension with us, as opposed to making images of things. And the reason I was attracted to steel as a medium is that I like the process of working the material. I like how stock comes in clean, geometric forms. That lends very well to sculpting. It’s fun to work with and it’s also beautiful. I’ve been a metal sculptor for about ten years now.
What keeps you motivated throughout the day?
I need to be somewhat dubious about whether I can pull off a build to even be interested in endeavoring into it. I think that curiosity motivates me the most on a day to day basis. Every day I go into my shop doing something I’ve never done before. I live for the thrill of pulling it off, even if it doesn’t always go that way.
What is your favorite shop tool and why?
Admittedly, I am somewhat obsessed with grinders as I do a ton of finishing work. I have everything from a Brodbeck 2” x 72” belt grinder down to my Metabo ¼” die grinders, and 1/8” Pencil grinders. But if I had to pick one tool that I’m finding to be very fun for sculptural purposes, it would be my shop mate, Jay’s, 33Lb Anyang Power Hammer. I love that thing.
What's your favorite piece that you've worked on?
I think Nepenthes Vorax might be my favorite piece that I’ve worked on. It has sentimental value for me as it is the first sculpture that I forged on. It was a real turning point as far as what I thought was possible with steel.
If you could have any job as it relates to question 1 what would it be and what would you do with that?
I have the job already. I feel really lucky to be a full time metal sculptor. It’s the best job in the world in my opinion.
What BA product is your favorite and why?
I really like the 2” Curved Quick Change Zirconia flap discs. They are real time savers for sanding concave surfaces with a smaller radius.
If there was one person you could collaborate with - who would it be and why?
That’s a hard question to answer considering I have collaborations lined up through 2024. I can tell you that the last two collaborations I’ve done, one with Joshua Prince (@princeworksforge) and one with Seth Lopez (@sl_bladeworks) were both extremely fun projects and have made me a believer in the collaborative process. My next collaboration is with my friend, Nick Anderson (@Nandaknives) and we have something very badass in the works for Blade Show Atlanta next year! Come to think of it, I collaborate with bladesmiths a lot.
Collab with @princeworksforge
Do you have any advice for the next generation that you wish you had when you first started?
Settle into the idea of incremental progress and understand that what you’re endeavoring into takes time. Stick with it and keep building your skills. In the realm of metal work, you can’t know it all in one lifetime. Listen to yourself when you gravitate towards certain processes. And always make sure you’re having fun.
Collab with @sl_bladeworks
What are your future plans for your shop?
I want to keep pushing the boundaries of what I know to be possible with sculpting steel. I want to keep learning and developing my skills. And when the time comes, I’d like to be a mentor. My mentors have changed my life. I’d like to return the favor one day.


A Note From Leo
Thanks for sharing your story with us, Leah! Your organic sculptures are so refined and clean that they really look like they're from another realm. I didn't even realize that you could select metal as a medium at sculpting school - wish I had that option when I went to art school.
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