[dropcap]Some[/dropcap] artists work with watercolors and oil pigments; for others, it’s marble or stone. For Justin Hodges, woods, metals, patinas and stains form a melange of custom furniture and specialty metal works gracing homes, restaurants, bars, conference rooms and hotels across the world via his Oklahoma City company, Urban Ironcraft.
And it all began with a request from his mom.
“I started around the age of 18, when my mother asked me to build a queen-size bed for my younger sister,” Hodges says. “I worked in the family trucking business welding shop during summers, and I had gotten good enough to give it a try. After that, my mother’s decorator friend asked if I could build some curtain rods, then a coffee table and so on.
“Next thing I knew, I was building decorative metal products on a regular basis. I never knew I had a creative side, but when I found out that I did, it turned into a passion at a young age.”
Going from labors of love for family and friends to a full-time, creative career was helped by tours of wholesale metal furniture companies near the Mexican border. Hodges realized the pieces he saw weren’t, to his mind, finished.
“I thought, ‘Wow, I can bring these pieces back, work on them a little, put a stone or wood top on them and still make a 200 percent margin,’” he says. “They were great at forging large heavy material, but their welding and grinding were horrible. The hard part was done, so all I needed to do was clean it up and put the finishing touches to it. So I came back home on fire with my new idea.”
For the past 15 years, Hodges’s custom fabrication workshop has turned out pieces meant to last for generations. Works include brackets, fireplace screens, towel rings and bars, decorative table legs, bathroom vanities, desks, conference tables, dining tables and coffee tables. The company’s distinct, highly decorative corbels – brackets that serve as structural pieces jutting from a wall to carry weight – are in great demand.
“There was a part of me that knew people would love [the corbels] as much as I did, but I didn’t know if my pricing was where it needed to be,” he says. “There wasn’t anything on the market like them, so I had that going for me.”
Every day presents an exciting challenge.
“I love the idea of taking raw materials and turning them into something amazing,” Hodges says. “I get a lot of satisfaction from seeing something I had in my mind come to fruition. Aside from that, I just love to work with steel. I’ve been around it my entire life.”
Urban Ironcraft is a labor of love for Hodges and his staff of artisans, including Craig Lewis, the first employee hired, who fabricates everything from hot rods and motorcycles to high-end metal furniture.
“I love to design new products that have never been done before,” Hodges says. “In a way I get to be a creative inventor on a regular basis.”