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Metal work for the soul might be one way to phrase Joe Marlow’s art and business.
After nearly 30 years as a career welder for nuclear submarines, battleships and manufacturing parts, Marlow said his family business Marlow Metalworks is where he finds the peace and freedom to do what he’s always wanted.
“This is the first time I’ve gotten to do what makes me happiest,” Marlow said. “After waiting 35 years for the perfect golf game (retirement), this is the stuff in my soul.”
Working out of his Happy Valley shop since 2006, Marlow handcrafts furniture, functional garden art, miscellaneous decorations and custom metal work using reclaimed steel and reclaimed and/or local lumber.
His imagination is limitless for his one-of-a-kind products, which include benches, plant stands, side tables, coffee tables, entertainment centers and wine racks.
Marlow Metalworks’ concept grew out of a thicket of blackberry bushes covering an old lawnmower Marlow found at their first Sequim home.
He tore apart the lawnmower to make three metal-cutting and metal-bending machines from the parts. An avid fisherman, he used the rest to cut out images of fish.
In more than five years, Marlow said he and his family have recycled tons of metal through the business; for every 2 pounds they receive, they use at least 1 pound in their products.
“Recycling Sequim is what we’re doing,” he said.
Marlow said his process is environmentally friendly and uses locally found materials.
His wife, Connie Durant, hunts down unique metal, lumber and screws, fixtures and polyurethane at reuse/recycle stores and garage sales.
“That’s putting America back in your pocket,” Marlow said.
Friends and neighbors also call them about unwanted wood and steel.
“Connie has put us out there in the community,” Marlow said.
When asked where she finds unique items, she said they are “just around.” Durant gives her gratitude to the community for literally piling on the support.
The couple’s daughters, Lauren Marlow and Alex Durant, also joined the business.
Lauren has followed in her dad’s footsteps, using his scraps and extra material to create mobiles from discarded lawnmowers, farm equipment, car hoods, water tanks and more. She is a student at Peninsula College and her work won “Best in Show-3D” at the 2011 Peninsula College Art show.
Before coming to Sequim, Marlow’s family, minus Lauren, lived on a remote island in Fiji from 2003-2006. His reuse mentality only grew more there.
“During this, we became really good at using and reusing everything we had, since the closest hardware store was 60 miles away by boat,” Durant said. “He was the perfect person to live on a deserted island in Fiji.”
Marlow said he’s made something out of nothing since he was a boy.
“Everything I see that isn’t working, I try to fix it,” he said.
Customers often ask about the products’ history and the process of getting from Point A – scrap yard – to Point B – elegant, sleek furniture.
For four years, the two daughters played piano. When it stopped working, the family tried donating it to local churches but couldn’t find any takers. Marlow decided to make a piano bench out of a piano.
The metal fish cutouts, by which Durant said many people know their business, were taken from an electric box she found.
Purchasing a Marlow Metalworks original isn’t out of reach for most buyers.
Marlow said his business doubled its profits from 2009 to 2010 but he deliberately doesn’t price his items too high.
As he points to a couch table, Marlow said he could triple his money if he took it to Seattle but one of the principles of the business is buying local.
Items range in price from $20 for a fish to $500 for a bench.
Marlow recently began taking on more frequent custom work, such as a gate for a home. He said interest is beginning to take off. Depending on the job, custom steel work can cost thousands.
Durant and Marlow strive to make sure everything is perfect for the buyer, though. They’ll take pictures and draw sketches to make sure everything is just right.
“It’s all about communication,” Marlow said. “We want to give people what they want.”
Marlow works six days a week in his shop and enjoys the fact that his products will outlast him.
“When I make something, I’m certain it’ll hold up,” he said.
Marlow Metalworks sells products at the Sequim Open Aire Market from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturdays on Cedar Street and during regular business hours at Rainshadow Coffee Company, 157 W. Cedar St. They’ve been members of the market since 2007. Visit www.sequimmarket.com for more information.
Reach Matthew Nash at firstname.lastname@example.org.