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A weekly look at creativity, arts, and culture in southwest Michigan, hosted by Zinta Aistars.Fridays in Morning Edition at 7:50am and at 4:20pm during All Things Considered.

Art Beat: Things of Steel

Steel art by Michelle Zorich and Katherine Martin
Michelle Zorich
Things of Steel
Steel art by Michelle Zorich and Katherine Martin

Twenty-five years ago, two women welders created a business and Things of Steel was born. Michelle Zorich came to Kalamazoo from Chicago, where she trained as an interior designer. She welded her dream to that of Katherine Martin, a welder creating incredible pieces of furniture and art from steel. Together, they produce what they call “furnishings for the fearless,” along with whimsical but sophisticated pieces of art: steel curved like ribbons, shimmering with reflected light, and tables that seem to balance on air, as well as business signs that entice one to enter, and soaring sculptures lit from within. Their love story is for steel, but also for each other.

A conversation with Michelle Zorich and Katherine Martin of Things of Steel

“When I moved to Michigan from Chicago, I couldn’t really find a job right away,” says Zorich. “So, I took a welding class, thinking, ‘Oh, I could just whip up a table or two for my clients,’ and I fell in love—with the steel, I fell in love with the creating, and I switched careers.”

Zorich put her first art show together with her first efforts in making steel furniture. She sold every piece.

“And I thought, ‘Either I’m fabulous or my tables are really, really cheap,’” Zorich laughs.

Martin says her involvement with steel began early. “I grew up with a father who was a machinist, and sometimes I helped him out in the summertime. My sister was friends with Michelle, and one time I went to her studio to say hi and see what she was up to. I walked in and had this intense memory of being in my dad’s machine shop. So, I said, ‘Wow, this smells like home!’”

Michelle Zorich and Katherine Martin at their wedding
Donna Emerson
Things of Steel
Michelle Zorich and Katherine Martin at their wedding

Soon enough, it became home. The two women began working together, combining their skills. Things of Steel was born, now housed in a studio at 826 Mills Street in Kalamazoo. Each piece was unique and demand for what they produced grew.

From their love of working together, another love story took shape—their own.

“We were working for quite a few years together,” Zorich says. “It was a perfect harmony of me creating, whipping things up, working with this big chunk of steel, and then Katherine would come in and say, “Why don’t you add this,’ so we’re like yin and yang. We work so well together. After years and years of living and working together, I finally said to Katherine, ‘Will you marry me?’ And what did you say, honey?” Martin picks up the story: “Well, we had been talking about do we want to get married or not after the Supreme Court made their decision to allow gay marriage. Things had been going really well, we don’t really need to be married, back and forth, so I said, ‘Well, you can change your mind in the morning.”

“That’s exactly what she said! What a wild statement!” Zorich laughs.

The eventual answer was yes. With the 25th anniversary of working together side by side, the two plan to continue showing their work at art shows, creating commissioned works, and just having a good time. To see their work at their studio by appointment, contact or visit their website.

Listen to WMUK's Art Beat every Friday at 7:50 a.m. and 4:20 p.m.

Zinta Aistars is our resident book expert. She started interviewing authors and artists for our Arts & More program in 2011.
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