Sparks fly as Andrew Finkel slices through sheet metal with a plasma torch.
It is here, in his Everett workshop, that the creatures come to life: a kingdom of 12-gauge steel dogs, cats, squirrels, birds, whales and sea horses.
Under his command, the animal cutouts are transformed into modern art housewares, from wall hooks and bookends to pet feeders and funky ornaments.
“I like it to be fun and playful,” said Finkel, 38, a metal fabricator by trade. “Theoretically, it is art. Mostly, I just think it’s cute.”
About six tons of steel annually are cut into shapes, powder-coated and sold through his online business, These Creatures. His parents handle the paperwork from Seattle and his sister does the marketing from Brooklyn, N.Y.
Back in Everett, Finkel works under the steady gaze of three rescue pit bulls and a scrappy mutt. His comrades. His inspirations.
He founded These Creatures in 2008 as a sideline to make money to support animal rescue organizations.
“I started making things for pets. It just sort of evolved into colorful cute things that would go nicely in a child’s room or home area,” Finkel said.
“Originally, all the animals were a little silly. Everything had antlers. The French bull dogs were smoking.”
(Of course they smoke. They’re French.)
The company logo is a miniature pinscher with wings. An ornamental squirrel holds a cherry bomb.
The wall hook could hold a dog’s leash and its owner.
“I think we tested about 300 pounds before they started to bend,” Finkel said of the hooks, which sell for $28.
“They are far more durable than they need to be. That’s part of their charm.”
The elevated pet dishes are ergonomically correct, so Fido can dine without back strain. Ditto for Kitty.
Items are glossed in vibrant colors with names such as limesicle, coral, parakeet and charcoal.
Finkel, a Seattle native, grew up fascinated by his grandfather’s machinist tools. “I was always making stuff, whether it was flamethrowers and other dangerous weapons I shouldn’t be building when I was 13,” he said.
He worked summers on the bottling line of the family brewery, Pike Brewing Co.
“I went to art school briefly,” he said. “Very briefly.”
He honed his skills in the nonart world.
“I did store build-outs and designed fixtures,” he said. “I was a general contractor. I owned a pet supply store.”
At heart, he’s a man of steel.
These Creatures is an offshoot of his custom metal-working business, Mansfield Design, specializing in furniture, gates and store fixtures.
He does digital sketches in his studio’s back office. From there, the images are sent to the computerized plasma cutter and other big noisy machines for brushing, grinding, drilling and bending. An Everett company does the powder-coating.
Affordable home prices brought Finkel and his wife, Stefaney, to the bungalow on a dead-end street in Everett about 10 years ago. A wooden gate hides the home/workshop compound from the road.
These Creatures products have been featured in national magazines and blogs, and are sold in shops across America as well as Europe, Japan and Russia.
But to find the creatures in Everett, you first have to find the fenced fortress with the pit bulls, flying sparks and the artist who doesn’t want to be found.
Andrea Brown; 425-339-3443; firstname.lastname@example.org.