Ben and Kate Gatski create handmade furniture, sculpture and home decor from old farm machinery. Kate shares their story.
ABI: How did you and Ben get started in business?
KG: We have been selling metal sculptures for nearly 10 years. We began by hosting a show and sale of our work. This event was very well received by the local community. This support gave us the confidence we needed to launch our metal business.
The first year in business we sold our work at several flea and antique markets and a handful of retail craft shows. The results of these events were mediocre. In our second year, we exhibited at the Buyers Market of American Craft. The process of developing wholesale customers was very encouraging. It felt more like something you could build a full time living around. Today, we blend wholesale with online retail. We are also working on building relationships with architects and designers.
ABI: What is your process for creating your art?
KG: We collect reclaimed materials like metal and old barnwood from farm parts dealers, junkyards and farmers in our region. We bring these remnants of agricultural history home to our shop in rural Pennsylvania. The design process can happen in one of three ways:
1. Ben has a vision for a piece and makes it start to finish.
2. We sketch out design ideas based on something we want to make.
3. We discuss an idea for a piece and experiment with metal to make it.
ABI: Tell us about the installation of your work at the J. Gilberts Restaurant in St. Louis.
KG: One Saturday morning we received a phone call from a designer who works for a restaurant group. She explained their interest in purchasing a few pieces for a new Steak concept restaurant in St. Louis. We agreed to scale up our wall mounted animal sculptures to fit their space. They worked fabulously. We even had a customer who went to the restaurant and tracked us down to order her own sculpture.
ABI: Is the restaurant industry a new niche market for you?
KG: Our work is well suited for restaurants; it makes a big impact and its fun. Metal is also an ideal material for restaurants, it wears very well and can give a space beautiful structure. We love custom projects, and working with architects and designers is always a pleasure. They have a keen sense of space and style.
ABI: What’s your best advice for artists opening themselves to new opportunities?
KG: We try to seek out at least one new opportunity each day. After nearly 10 years as full time artists, we’ve recognized patterns in the way we do things. Being open to new opportunities is a big part of our recipe. Other artists and craftspeople have asked how it works- so we’re writing it in the form of a digital guide called All Craft, A Recipe for Making it Pay.
We have found that new opportunities are critical to keeping your confidence up. They will give you hope for the future. As you know, hope and confidence are invaluable tools to keep in your studio.