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David Broussard has turned metal into a ministry.
About 10 years ago, the former musician and hairstylist began experimenting with welding and ended up creating something, well, glorious. Using a technique called flame painting, Broussard takes an ordinary, dull piece of carbon steel and transforms it into a cross that seems to glow from within.
"It looks like a burst of light," says Broussard about one design, called Before the Foundations. "In the middle it's almost like a portal, like a window back to the beginning of time, where God spoke and said, 'Let there be light.' "
Broussard, who lives in Dallas, enjoys working with metal just as much as his first passion, music.
"It's very fulfilling to be able to play with metal," he says. "And to have people ooh and aah over it, that's as fulfilling as being onstage and having people applaud. It's actually even better because the song is over and it's gone, but this is something they'll have in their homes forever."
Broussard, 58, began flame painting while he was working as a hairstylist. "The third thing I made was a cross, and I hung it in my hair salon," he says. "It wasn't there an hour. Somebody bought it. So I made another one and another one." His former business partner told him that it was his answered prayer, the thing he had been looking for - a new gift.
"I didn't even see it coming," Broussard says. "She said, 'The only way this will stop is if you stop.' "
Broussard cuts his designs into carbon steel using a plasma torch. Next, he puts the design in, using polishing tools. Then it's time to apply the heat with a blowtorch.
When welding, the colors start off silver, then move to gold and then to amber and red. When it gets really hot it goes into a deep, purplish blue and then a bright silver blue. "Once it goes into the silver blue it's over, it won't do anything else," he says. "If you don't like what you get you have to sand it down and start over from scratch."
Many of his finished pieces tend to look holographic. One of Broussard's biggest clients, a businessman from South Africa, saw his pieces at a show in California and went in for a closer look. "He was standing up and trying to touch it, but it looked like it was off the wall," says Broussard. "So he leaned over and lost his balance. He looked up and said, 'I want it.' Now he has about 70 or 80 pieces of my work."
Other popular designs include the Passion Cross, which looks beaten and bruised, and the Spiral Cross, a three-dimensional design made from one piece of steel that looks like a continuous path.
"At the bottom of the highest cross, it's slanted and it's silver, like light," says Broussard. "It's our life walk. We all walk and we all have very colorful lives and everything, but the light comes on when we come to the foot of the cross."
One of Broussard's most personal designs is the Davidic Code, which he created as a counterpoint to The Da Vinci Code. "I said, 'OK, Lord, I want to do a code.' " He said the idea just popped into his head to put Scripture, mainly the Lord's Prayer, on the cross but take out all of the punctuation. "It is amazing how people are really drawn to that cross, especially children. They'll stand there in my booth and read the word of God out loud."
Broussard loves making crosses of all sizes for clients to hang in their homes or offices, but he has branched out into jewelry, mirrors and sculpture and even furniture. Every design has a meaning, a story. Even a signature element - waves along the edges of his work - relates back to the Bible.
"The waves represent frequency," he says. "Everything in life is frequency. You're listening to me through sound frequency. You see things in light frequency. The cross is the frequency of life."New workspace
David Broussard is moving his Jeweled Steel workshop in January to the Dallas Design District, where he will have a workspace and showroom. Stay tuned for updates and see pieces for sale at www.jeweledsteel.com.