At what point in your life did you decide to become a professional artist?
I’ve been studying metalworking since high school. When I was 29, I made the leap to full time. I had a few big customers to keep me going. That led to other opportunities with interior designers and shows in New York.
It’s important in my trade to know the materials and also to have the experience. I’m fortunate that a lot of my customers have trusted me, but I’ve also had to make a ton of mistakes along the way. Everything has its own technique to it, no matter what trade you’re in, but metalworking is somewhat of a niche, especially as an artist. I’ve always looked at the materials with a creative eye. My work is not general or high volume. It’s specific and thoughtful.
What’s one of the most special items you’ve ever made for a customer?
People come to me and show me a space that needs something unique. I tailor-make each item. Since everything is custom, I’ve done a lot of really interesting projects that are inspired by the space or the personalities who commission my work.
For the City of Cleveland, I did a temporary public art install. They wanted me to come up with an idea for a one-of-a-kind bench to unite Cleveland. The bench was placed where the east meets the west, right in front of the Terminal Tower. There tends to be this rivalry, which is why the W (for west) is on the east side of Cleveland and the E (for east) is on the west side of Cleveland – to change the conversation.
The initial idea I drew up went through a lot of committees. The committees really liked it but the general public wasn’t 100% on board and it received some criticism for the materials I chose. They wanted me to incorporate old materials that represented the “rust belt” so I used two antique dumpsters and fabricated it to look like a bench. It looked cool and the city approved it, but some people had an issue with it; they didn’t necessarily like the association that came with the materials. Even so, I’m proud of the work and what it symbolized – a coming together of two sides for a shared future together.
If you listen to music while creating, what’s on your playlist?
I listen to a lot of music because I’m in a workshop most of the time and I don’t want to hear the equipment. Sometimes I get too into the music and need to turn it down to focus more on the piece. I use it to get an even keel kind of mood to calm me, help me concentrate, and finish what I started.
I’ve been listening to a lot of jazz music lately as well as French electronic music – believe it or not. I’m surprised by how much I like it. I also like Latin jazz. I tend to choose genres based on the piece I’m working on at the time and the feel I’m going for.
Where do you go to find inspiration in and around Cleveland?
When I first started, I got inspired by a lot by factories and buildings being demolished around town. I was able to go in and get materials. The “rust belt” look was in style back in the day, especially in New York. The trends are moving more to art deco now. It’s still utilitarian, but I’m reimagining the art deco style to suit my clients’ tastes and my aesthetic.