About a year ago, a furniture craftsman signed up to be in one of my art shows. We had the usual communication via email that went back and forth about instructions that most new artists have. Boy, was I surprised when a former neighbor pulled up to unload and it was the same guy!
Steve Ulrich specializes in metal and wood fabrications, furniture primarily, and home decor like bowls, candle holders and such. Ulrich had a day job when we met nearly 17 years ago and I remember being most impressed that he rode his bike to work daily, from the Heights to somewhere far in West Houston.
A couple of eye-opening life events led to leaving the ole’ nine to five grind and Ulrich picked up some metalsmith classes because, as he put it, “we live in a modern society, not everything has to be made out of wood.”
Ulrich picked up woodworking from his father, a master wood craftsmen and wanted to learn a new skill: metal.
From my point of view, Ulrich and his wife are as artistic as they come. The ultimate do-it-yourselfers, if that is a word. We sat talking in midcentury chairs they refinished and restored right down to the laced rope cord seats. I sipped on fresh roasted Americano coffee that Ulrich roasted and made from a machine that would make any barista jealous.
Ulrich was after a life, and he found it in being creative. When he wants to learn something new, he finds out how most often from instructional videos on the internet.
His first projects were building his own work benches in his garage. He said that’s standard for any student of the craft. Then a mishap with one of his three dogs escaping gave him a brilliant idea for his first big project.
The metal gate that crossed his driveway opened wide letting the dogs make their escape. Ulrich removed the gate, (with help) cut a section off and rehung it with hydraulic hinges back onto the original. He took the iron cross bars (think jail) that added height to the gate off and re-created them as a vine design.
I barely noticed any of this the gate was so seamless. Ulrich pointed out other projects, the sunshade over his studio made of aluminum and plexiglass. A wooden kayak tucked neatly next to a modern one on the ceiling of his back porch. He’s found being an artist is full time.
At the table he hands me what looks like a metal bowl, I expect it to be heavy but it’s not. The metallic surface looks and feels like clay, with smoothed over rough edges and a slight texture. I note that it’s hollow and ask the same question his metal instructor asked recently, “What IS this made of?” Aluminum is the answer. Besting one’s teacher is of course, priceless.
Find Ulrich on Instagram and Facebook as fab.weld.wood. He’ll also be at First Saturday Arts Market this Saturday, the makeup date for those artists affected by Harvey. 540 W. 19th from 11 – 6 p.m.
Cohen is an artist and founder of First Saturday Arts Market and the new Market at Sawyer Yards, find him at ArtValet.com