I first started bending metal into “Functional Art” in 1992 while working as a welder in my home town of Des Moines, IA. It didn’t take long for my hobby to draw the eye of the owner at the hip Asian restaurant where I was a bartender in the evenings, resulting in my first “real” job designing and fabricating 30 tables for their new dining room – not a bad start for someone with no art or design degree. The tables were such a hit, I set up shop in a friend’s garage and began self marketing my unique spin on furniture. This initial venture proved to be a bit more profitable in experience than income, but it gave me a good idea of what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.
Desiring a change of scenery and a larger market, I moved to the Dallas/Ft Worth area in July of 1995 and continued the pursuit of a business that centered around my designs. I spent the better part of 5 years tinkering with small projects but was never able to give the business my full attention.
The start of a new decade would prove to be a turning point in my life as well as the life of the Iron Chinchilla. Shortly after getting married in May of 2000, I ended my career as a restaurant manager, dusted off my welder, and gave the “art as a business” another try. Once again I would self market some of my smaller pieces, including wild picture frames and candle sticks, to some local galleries and small retailers in the area. Even achieving a bit of success with a new line of wall crosses. Sales were steady, but not enough to support my new family.
Then, in 2001, just when I thought I was going to have to return to my welding career, a chance meeting with a prospective customer looking for a cool headboard… turned into an 8-year partnership. I was able to move out of my garage and into an 8000 square foot manufacturing facility, and eventually employ five full time apprentices. I taught them to fabricate more than 50 designs to meet the demand of 250 gallery representatives as well as stocking a trailer to visit more than 30 of the top street festivals in the country. It was a wonderful, yet exhausting time. By the summer of 2008 it was evident that the cost of long hours on the road and unrealistic production demands would take their toll, and the partnership dissolved at the end of 2008.
In 2009, desiring a return to a more custom centered business; I took over all operations of the Chinchilla. Acting on faith, I abandoned the large studio and apprentices, as well as the grueling show and festival schedule, deciding instead to maintain the valued customer base the Chinchilla had accumulated and expanding its online presence with a brand new website. These changes have not only taken the company back to where it started, but where it was most efficient, the quality of craftsmanship was easier to control and…most importantly, the designs were the most creative and unique.
I live in Keller, Texas with my wife Tina and our 3 beautiful children. I serve a gracious God and I thank Him daily for the blessings of family, art and creation in my life.