Steve Nielsen is a very unique artist who works with stainless steel to create beautiful masterpieces that look like real live fish. I came across his work on Instagram and was immediately intrigued by the incredible detail. You guys should definitely check him out.
Q: What is your fishing background?
A: Growing up in the 70s-80s, my dad was fishing all the bass tournaments and then in the late 80s he started guiding the local rivers for salmon, striper and Sturgeon. Needless to say fishing was an everyday influence in my life.
Q: What made you start making metallic fish?
A: In 2006, I was asked to build something to be mounted on a rock building at one of our local Indian casinos. I had been thinking about doing some salmon in stainless steel. They loved the idea as stainless would not corrode and stand the test of time. Let’s say that was ten years ago and from then on I was building fish from word of mouth and used social media to build my brand.
Q: How long have you been making these fish?
A: In 2013 I sold my primary business of nearly 20 yrs and told my wife I wanted to spend the rest of my life building my art. It’s been over 10 years since I built my first stainless steel salmon.
Q: Now that you make this art do you have less time to fish?
A: The great thing about building my art, compared to my old business. I don’t have any employees or the over head in advertising and big shop cost. If I choose too, I take off anytime I want to go fishing, hiking with my wife or get some exercise at the skatepark. I am however so backed up with requests, that my customer waiting lists are months. The greatest thing about that. People want my best and are willing to wait as long as it takes. I put a lot of pressure on myself to always give more than expected. For that reason I don’t fish as much as I’d like to.
Q5: How long does it take to make the average fish sculpture?
A: Over the past 10 years I’ve developed a lot of techniques when building the fish. I call it detail. The more detail the longer it takes and more it cost. The least amount of time I’ll spend on one fish would be 3-5 days and the most time I’ve spent on one fish was 480 hours or 3 months. Most people can’t comprehend putting so much time into one piece.
A: When I started building stainless fish I didn’t paint them. What I’d do first is design the blanks using computer software. I could then send the files to anyone that laser cuts. Once I have my perfect laser cut fish. I start with sanding the stainless with 36 grit until there are no scratches. Then sanding from head to tail I create what appears to be a water reflection. Next I start hammering the fish from the back side. Using rubber and hard plastic mallets. I could spend a hour explaining all the intricate details but I’ll just skip to once the fish has taken shape. I then use multiple air tools to add detail to the head and fins. From this point I can leave it bare stainless and add color by tig welding small spots. Or I can hand paint the fish with a combination of iridescent candy paints, pearls and paintpigments.
If the customer wants a more realistic look I take it a step further and make the head 3D with very accurate detail inside the mouth. My trade mark is polishing the inside of the mouth and lower jaw. So that there are no questions that it’s made of metal.
Q: Is art your main source of income?
A: Since January 2013 my art has been my primary source of income.
Q: Have you always been interested in art?
A: I’ve always been very creative and was always drawing something for as long as I can remember. In my early 20s from 93-96 I focused on learning to airbrush that allowed me to create depth in my work. Then in 1996 I started a shop called Alter Images design and fabrication. I made a shift and started fabricating custom vehicles and high end air suspension systems. As time went on I built a very globally respected business and acquired a lot of metal working tools. The desire to create something artsy was burning inside of me. So I decided to give metal art a try. Immediately I gained people’s interest and was selling metal yard art as a side business. Important to note I worked long hours 7 days a week at my shop building custom vehicles and designing suspension systems. So the art would be late at night. One customer lead to another.
Q: where can we go to see/buy your artwork?
A: I had a nice website but someone hacked it. The crazy world we live in..lol
To browse and order my most common art work. Etsy.com/shop/SteveNielsenArt
To follow my daily project updates
I prefer to communicate with each potential customer and explain to them all the different stages of metal work and paint detail I offer. Ultimately leaving them to decide what level of fish they want me to create.