Welding wounds: Coping mechanism becomes creative hobby for retired police officer

Sean Hughes, a retired Harlingen police officer who suffers from PTSD, uses welding as a coping mechanism while creating art pieces from scrap metal. Courtesy Photo

HARLINGEN— Looking for a new hobby or distraction can be tough, but Sean Hughes found exactly what he was looking for in welding.

Hughes is a retired Harlingen police officer who always knew he wanted to try welding but never got into it.

“When I left, I decided to try it, and I bought a welder and watched a bunch of YouTube videos and taught myself,” Hughes said.

He has been creating art for about three years and is now a part of the art community in Harlingen, where he said he has found encouragement.

“I get inspiration from them and being an artist you have two categories: people who have bachelor’s in fine art and then the individuals who are self-taught and do their craft,” he said.

Hughes enjoys working with his hands and being able to create things with steel.

He tried painting, but the three dimensional aspect of metal is what made him gravitate to it.

Hughes also said welding has been a great way to cope with his post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

He was injured as a police officer, as well as during his time in the Army. Because of that, he was placed with a type of disability, he explained.

“The steel I mostly use is scrap metal from different places, and what could have been normally thrown out or recycled, I take it and make something out of it. It kind of has symbolism for me with my PTSD, where I am giving it new life,” Hughes said.

The pandemic has not affected his lifestyle as much because he was used to staying in and creating art, which he has been doing a lot of these past few months.

“I think a lot of artists are reclusive and stay away from big crowds. With my PTSD, I don’t really do big crowds and COVID has basically put everybody in a situation I am usually in,” Hughes said.

“I am trying to narrow down what my style is, and I am still evolving. I have been doing a lot of Virgin Marys and Sacred Hearts,” he said.

However, he said he misses Art Walk in Downtown Harlingen and shows at art galleries.

“If it sells great, but it is not the money that I need, it’s the sense of purpose,” Hughes said.

He said he was taught to be a provider and protector of his family, but when he was told he was no longer capable of providing it affected him.

“You take a hit, and I thought, ‘what am I? What is my purpose?’” he said.

Now, his art has allowed him to find a new purpose.

“Anyone in my situation should find something they love to do, not necessarily what gives you the most money but something that motivates you to get up in the morning and get dressed,” he said.

“For me, it is a way for me to express myself without actually having to use words,” Hughes said.

ecavazos@valleystar.com