Gilbert resident Francine Kavanaugh welds her way into art shows

By Christina Fuoco-Karasinski

Francine Kavanaugh welds her way into art shows.

Francine Kavanaugh dons a cotton sweatshirt, gloves and a protective leather apron in the Arizona heat. She opens the garage door of her immaculate Gilbert home, slides on a mask and begins to weld.

Seven years ago, the 76-year-old Gilbert grandmother took up welding as a way to create art. For two weeks in November, her pieces were on display for the first time during Hidden in the Hills, Arizona’s longest-running artist studio tour and sale. She’ll show some of her pieces at the Sonoran Small Works Art & Holiday Show in Cave Creek this month.

Kavanaugh has always been creative. When her three children were small, she did oil painting and decoupage under glass. For a short time, Kavanaugh owned an art gallery in Old Town Scottsdale. When her children were grown, she got back into art and began metalwork in 2010 after a visit to Hidden in the Hills.

“I thought, ‘I can do that!’” she says. “So I asked where she had learned and started taking my first welding class two weeks later.”

Her biggest question of her Mesa Community College instructor?

“What do I do with them if I don’t sell them?” she says with a laugh. “I was looking at Etsy and this lady had a bear that was a desktop sculpture. I thought it was cool because it would be easy for me to work with. I went to my welding instructor and I said I wanted to do these desktop sculptures.”

She admitted her first try was a “total disaster.” But the feisty Kavanaugh kept at it and now specializes in smaller pieces. “They’re very easy for me to work with,” she says. “They evolve and change as I’m moving.”

Kavanaugh spends her days working on 8- to 12-inch sculptures of everything from deer and birds to airplanes and tractors. On this day, she was focused on a Christmas tree.

“I love the whole process of starting with an idea and watching how the metal moves and changes along the way,” Kavanaugh says. “When the piece is finished, I find that the basic idea is still there. However, the end result has grown and evolved.”

for more info

What: Sonoran Small Works Art & Holiday Show

When: December 3, 2017 – January 7, 2018

Where: Sonoran Arts League at Stage Coach Village, Suite 144 7100 E. Cave Creek Road, Cave Creek