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Home / Judges from Metal Shop Masters Share Their Experiences

Judges from Metal Shop Masters Share Their Experiences

The judges of the Netflix series discuss with F&M the message and awareness the competition has created regarding welding, fabrication and metal art.

Posted: September 20, 2021

The hit series Metal Shop Masters premiered on September 10 on Netflix and features seven competitors who face off in elimination-style fabrication challenges. At the end of six challenges, the last fabricator standing will have earned the title of Metal Shop Master and win a $50,000 prize.
Metal Shop Masters features two well-known industry members as judges, Stephanie Hoffman (@underground_metal_works) and David Madero, (@madero_co). The series is available in 193 countries — in some of the countries it will be the first time audiences will see women welding, and doing so successfully.
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By Rachel Duran

The new Netflix series Metal Shop Masters is among the world’s latest binge watchable TV shows. What’s more impressive is the buzz the show has created about the opportunities in welding, fabrication and metal art. And that message is delivered in a positive, drama-free manner, where the cast members became friends.

Judges Stephanie Hoffman and David Madero are enthusiastic about the show and what the show means for the future. Both judges spoke with Fabricating & Metalworking at the American Welding Society’s (AWS) Fusion Lounge, which was part of FABTECH 2021, held in Chicago, Sept. 13-16. The pair appeared at a meet and greet on September 15 at the AWS Careers in Welding Mobile Exhibit at FABTECH.

On the show, the judges worked to inspire the seven contestants as they worked through all the struggles the show’s challenges were throwing at them without knocking them down, like other competition shows, said Hoffman. Madero added: “If we are just cutting them down constantly, we are not going to get that beautiful thing in front of our eyes. We wanted our brains to dance. Look at something and say, ‘Steph, did you see what he or she just did?’ It always goes back to that emotional response.”

The show focused “around different types of welding technologies: plasma cutting; there are people that have only done CNC; there is fabrication; sculpting,” Hoffman noted. There were a “variety of skills, styles and drives behind what they were doing.”

“While welding has been an ancillary part of other reality shows, Metal Shop Masters puts our skilled trade and craftspeople into the limelight like never before,” said Gary Konarska II, executive director and CEO, AWS. “There is a tremendous need for welding professionals and the American Welding Society greatly appreciates when such a distinguished media outlet, such as Netflix, spotlights the industry. We hope that Metal Shop Masters will reach a broad audience of future members of the welding community.”

Left Brain and Right Brain Thinking

Both Hoffman and Madero are familiar to welding audiences. Hoffman is program manager of workforce development at AWS and drives the AWS Careers in Welding Trailer around the country, and is the “face” of AWS. She is a professional welder, instructor and well-known metal artist herself (@underground_metal_works).

Madero (@madero_co) is a Mexican-American metal sculpting artist who is world-renowned for such creations as a 120-foot tall Monumental Christ and an epic ‘Eagle & Serpent’ (the Mexican coat of arms) installed in front of the official residence of the president of Mexico.

Joining the judges on the series was host Jo Koy, an award-winning comedian, who has appeared in several Netflix comedy specials.

ESAB IS SOLE PROVIDER OF WELDING EQUIPMENT FOR NETFLIX SERIES METAL SHOP MASTERS

Hoffman and Madero both emphasized the noticeable non-drama vibe that carries on throughout the Netflix series, which was by design. Yes, a contestant had to go home after each fabrication challenge as the goal was to win the $50,000 prize; however, the contestants were supportive and respectful of each other, and were even in awe of each other’s fabricating skill sets and metal art creations. The show was filmed in Los Angeles’ Chinatown during the height of the Covid-19 related national shutdown.

Acting as judges, Hoffman and Madero guided the contestants, who had a variety of experiences in welding and fabrication and working as metal artists, through six fabrication challenges. Each judge brought their different experiences — Hoffman as a traditionally trained welder and instructor and Madero as a metal art sculptor without formal welding training — creating a left brain and right brain dynamic.

The challenges were not easy for contestants. “Those projects that we had them doing, there were very difficult,” Madero said. “They had a small amount of time to do these things. They are under lights, they had all of these cameras up in their faces, and they had to do a perfect, a beautiful, a functioning work of art. It is not easy.”

Each challenge was completed in 10 hours. “The crazy thing is they did this in 10 hours and not in their own shop, with all new equipment, with a bazillion cameras on them,” Hoffman said. “It is hard enough to have a deadline and have to get something done in a week. That is even difficult for most people.”

Projects included creating avatars of themselves; a team challenge creating barbecue grills in the shape of food items you would grill; creating mobiles, and more. The final challenge was to design postapocalyptic escape vehicles to outrun zombies.

“The cast was here yesterday [at FABTECH] and they were saying it is weird that they are getting such good feedback on some of what they think is their worst work ever,” Hoffman said. “They didn’t have time to weld it the way they would have, or prep it the way they would have, or finish it the way they would have liked to see it. And yet their worst work ever is something that has mesmerized and captured the minds of so many people across the globe.”

Madero and Hoffman had to be honest and tough in their critiques of the contestants’ projects, but not too tough. Everything you see and hear on the show actually happened, Madero said. “We wanted them to finish their works of art and that was very important for us because without that we don’t have a show, we didn’t do our job,” Madero said. “And in a way, that show is an extension of us as people trained to promote metal art.”

“Most of the competitors weren’t professionally trained welders,” Hoffman said. “You’ll see self-trained welders, some with CNC backgrounds, and others who weld for cathartic reasons.” During each fabrication challenge, the participants detailed if they were using TIG, MIG or plasma welding, for example. In addition to the artistry and creativity, the show has an educational element and defined the different processes for the audience as the artists described their planning and approaches to developing their metal art projects.

Inspiration and No Limits

Hoffman said Metal Shop Masters sends a message of inspiration to the welding industry, marking the first time a show like this one exists. The show is being streamed in 193 countries, and for some of those countries, it will be the first time people will see women successfully involved in welding activities.

The show highlights welding in a unique way, whereas people think welders are either structural or pipe fitters. “This shows people that do come from those backgrounds, but this is also something you can do with it,” Hoffman said. “That is my background, but David is a very renown metal sculptor alongside me, and he is making sculptures for the president of Mexico. And then you have people who decide to leave [careers] being a firefighter and open up their own art and metal fabrication company. It is so inspiring to see all the different things you can do in this industry. It is really broadening the horizons of welding and the welding community.”

Madero added that the series will push the limits of metal art. “There are really no limits with this show. Welding is a big tent. The show is about metal art but at the same time, you have the welding machines, you have those grinds going on in the show. You have the sparks and the art. It really is good for everyone.”

Learn more at AWS and Metal Shop Masters.

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