Fabricating
Monday | 17 June, 2013 | 2:20 pm

Conscientious metal

By Stephanie Andrews

Through recycled materials, one metal sculptor crafts an important message

June 2013 - When you look at David Cianni’s work you may feel as if you are in another dimension. Large-scale brass bots and cyborg-esque luminaries light your way. As light bends and refracts off these metal sculptures, it’s hard not to be teleported into Cianni’s intergalactic universe. This talented metal sculptor forms, bends and manipulates his metals by hand, blending his passion for sci-fi, metalworking and recycling. 

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“I like sci-fi movies,” says Cianni, owner of Mayas Metal Fabrication, Aiken, S.C. “But I want to inspire people to recycle so we can have a better earth. I want the people from this generation to learn my skills so they can teach their kids recycling for the future.” According to the EPA, in 2008 each person in the United States (approximately 300 million people) alone accumulated an average of 4.5 pounds of solid waste daily. That’s approximately 1.35 billion pounds of garbage a day.

When Cianni moved from Guatemala to the United States, his passion for recycling took hold. “I came from a country that is really poor and when I came to this country I was 17 years old, and I saw so much waste,” he says. “We didn’t have those resources in my country, and around here people were throwing them away.” He hopes through his work that he can not only teach others about recycling but also convey, through his art, that it’s possible to turn trash into treasure.

“I’m trying to prove to people that out of the leftovers—things they have thrown away that are no good anymore—that we can make beauty out of them and make pieces of art that are exceptional and unique. Recycling is a beautiful thing.”

Out of this passion comes his own art technique, M-BORA (mechanical-bionic-organic-recyclable-art), which melds mechanical components, bionic engineering and recycled materials to mimic organisms, both real and imaginary. It’s only fitting then that Cianni finds his materials from scrap. “I will also use leftover material that I didn’t use from a job. Instead of wasting it I like to use it for making a piece of art.” 

Energy efficient

Before Mayas Metal Fabrication formed in 2006, Cianni had a long history with metal work. “I’ve liked to do art since I was little,” he says. “I spent my time over the last 25 years making art, so I could get better at my skills, and it turned into a job. Before I started my art, I used to work for a company making chandeliers for hotels and casinos. I’m a specialist in custom metal. Things people cannot buy I build.”

Cianni has worked all over the world—from Africa and Egypt to Saudi Arabia and throughout the United States—making chandeliers and other large-scale light fixtures for well-known places like the Hilton Hotel in Chicago, the Four Seasons and Hyatt Hotels. “Some of these were the biggest chandeliers in the country,” he says. “For one of my bigger jobs, each chandelier’s weight was about 14,000 pounds and I made everything from sketching all the way to the implementation.”

Cianni has tackled an array of projects spanning multiple industries, from art and design to metal fabricating to making 200 pound stainless steel bar stools for a Budweiser commercial. And with smart technology an ever-growing industry over the last decade, it’s no surprise that Cianni tapped into that market as well. 

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Michael Scott, owner of Power Efficiency Products, Aiken, S.C., began working with Cianni about eight years ago on a project called HHO. “It is a gas implement that saves about 5 to 7 mpg just by adding water and sodium bicarbonate,” he says. Scott had a revelation and went to Cianni with a metal fabrication challenge. “I brought it over to him and he took it to a different level,” says Scott. 

Once Cianni had finished the project, Scott wanted to see if it was truly one-of-a-kind. “Any time that somebody comes up with an idea or design I always like to Google it because if you think that you come up with a different idea, somebody out there usually has the same idea.” To his surprise, he couldn’t find the design anywhere. “It was nowhere to be found, so I got in touch with my patent lawyer and we’ve got a patent that’s going through right now that’s a multimillion dollar deal. It’s because of him that I’m sitting here now. He’s unique and his art is authentic. He’s zero to none.” 

Crafting inspiration

Because Cianni’s work mostly is handcrafted, he has an affinity for the malleable nature of brass. “I like to work with steel, aluminum, copper and stainless steel. But some of those materials are not as accessible to work with as brass. Brass is easy for me to manipulate. It’s better.” Kalix, Cianni’s life-size robot and most prized project, is made entirely of brass. “It took me longer to do, about nine months working every day. I think that’s my special one.”

Through his artistic visions and metal creations, like Kalix, he hopes to convey the importance not only of recycling and preserving our world but also of metal craftsmanship. “I think the message I want to send through my art and through my pictures and through what I do is to learn the skills. We are losing these skills right now in the United States because the technology is so advanced kids don’t want to learn handcrafting work. We are few who can really do handcrafting work. If you really look for it there aren’t many. They are disappearing because they are getting older and the younger generations don’t want to learn the skills because of advanced technology.” These handcrafting skills have served Cianni well throughout his life, and the hope is that through his art, he can stir a passion for metalworking within the younger generations, as well as instill a sense of responsibility in saving and nurturing our planet. MM

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