The metal workers

Doorplate for Room 201 at the El Moore made by Smithshop.

Gabriel and Amy Craig, owners/founders of Smithshop in Corktown, seem to have metal in their blood, which you’d think would be kind of painful until you take a look at how that particular condition has affected their artwork. You never quite knew what metal could do until you see what the two of them can do with the metal that they do.

“Basically we make just about anything out of metal,” said Amy.

Take the railings of the El Moore, for example, the ones you can see gracing the balconies of the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th floors. They probably look like the original railings that were there more than  a century ago when the El Moore was first built, and in a way they are. But then not quite…

“The railings are actually a restoration of the original. Probably about 20 percent of them are original ironworks that we restored,” said Amy.

The rest of the railings were essentially recreated from casts, bringing the old to life from the new. So what’s old really is new again (after a six-month process that began last October of 2014 and was completed the following spring).

“They’re pretty much exactly like the originals.”

Smithshop working on balcony railings.
Smithshop working on balcony railings.

It’s hard to believe that whoever created the originals would be able to tell the difference if they saw the work done by the Craigs, but then it doesn’t stop with the railings. The good folks at Smithshop also created the numbered steel doorplates that can now be seen on 12 of the apartments. The intricate design adds a unique and special touch in keeping with the historic feel of the building. Amy says they are currently finishing up five more door plates for the guest rooms, only those will have names engraved on them instead of numbers.

The Craigs started Smithshop a little over three years ago, “pretty much three days later” after Amy finished her masters degree at Cranbrook Academy of the Arts in 2012. Gabriel finished his masters from Virginia Commonwealth University in 2009. The two first met at Western Michigan University as undergraduates where both of them more or less caught the smithing bug together.

“We both started metal smithing in college. We both got fine art degrees and happened to take a metals and jewelry course and just kinda got sucked into it, making things by hand and learning how to use tools. ”

So after finding their calling – and each other – in undergrad, then pursuing that calling through graduate school, they immediately headed for Detroit while Amy’s diploma was probably still warm from Graduation Day.

“We went straight to the city, found a cheap loft, and set up shop,” she said.

And the rest, as they say, is history.