Make it decorative. Make it artsy. Make it classical. Make it art deco. Make it art nouveau.
Whatever the command, Rustic Steel Creations manages to bend the best known byproduct of iron ore to create unique pieces of art that have functionality, meet building codes and are extremely creative.
"It's about more than money, here,'' says owner Dominique Martinez. "It's about doing what you love. That's what's important.''
While most metal fabricating businesses do assigned projects, Rustic Steel Creations
of Tampa is in the business of letting its artists create unique pieces oftentimes limited only by their imaginations.
Martinez and his team of seven artists breathe life into projects that feature steel and iron in a creative, artistic way. And now they do it in a new place just north of downtown. The new space, at 3919 N. Highland Ave., has 12,000 square feet vs. 5,000 at the place they had occupied since 2002.
The move away from the Channelside District is a welcomed expansion, Martinez says, that was prompted by upgrades to the street outside their old digs and the temporary loss of foot traffic attributable to the downtown neighborhood's transformation to make way for growth and expansion of other projects.
As the City of Tampa worked to repair and replace sewer lines along 12th Street, customers found it more difficult to get to Rustic Steel Creations.
"It's like you're on an island, and no boats can get to you,'' recounts Martinez.
But the passion that fuels Rustic Steel would not let the company lose its luster. Martinez says they acted quickly -- searching for a new location.
"The City [of Tampa] did what it had to do, and we did what we had to do to survive.''
Creating A New Home
Rustic Steel's search led them to a largely abandoned warehouse built in 1962 right in the the center of Arlington Heights, a small neighborhood between the Hillsborough River and Interstate 275, just north of downtown and south of Tampa Heights. The new location offers the opportunity for growth -- structurally, financially, artistically and philanthropically.
"This building offers more room for creativity,'' says Martinez, pointing out that it is more than double the size of their last space. And now, with business back in full-swing, Rustic Steel Creations can focus on what's most important -- creating art. And they expect the new location to enable artists to showcase pieces like never before -- something, Martinez assures, will rival the magnitude of previous projects.
Martinez says Rustic Steel Creations intends to use the entire city of Tampa as its free-range canvas -- one of unfettered artistic possibility. And the steel entity wants the inhabitants of Tampa to have up-close and tangible experiences with the metal works.
"Art deserves to be seen and touched,'' he says. "We want to be an asset to the community. We want to be an asset to the city. We want to complement what Tampa has to offer.''
Rustic Steel plans to host a grand opening for its new home in October. They hope to sell a lot of art, but most importantly, they hope a lot of people attend.
Quincy Walters, a freelance journalist in the Tampa Bay region, writes about local people and culture. Comments? Contact 83 Degrees.