Detroit welders, fabricators, and blacksmiths are coming together for 'Scrap' at Traffic Jam and Snug

Scrap: Revolve is a new event being held in the lot across from Traffic Jam & Snug on West Canfield in Cass Corridor. The folks who run the restaurant and microbrewery are putting on the event with the help of Recycle Here!, a grassroots recycling program that's donated a heap of scrap metal so that local welders and fabricators can meld the discarded waste into works of art. Those works of art will be auctioned off to benefit Green Living Science, an outgrowth of Recycle Here! Live music, fire performances, vending, and food and drink will fill out the free event that welcomes the public to participate.

James Howard, father of Traffic Jam's owner Carolyn Howard, inspired the event according to Kevin Keena, a blacksmith at CJ Forge.

"James Howard knows the value of blacksmithing," says Keena.

James was a member of the Michigan Artist Blacksmith's Association and "very enthusiastic about it," says Keena.

"I would venture to say that he was the inspiration for this whole event," says Keena. "I think he told them to call me and ask who I would recommend to do a blacksmithing demonstration and I said, 'Heck, I'm only 15 minutes away, I'll bring an apprentice and I'll do it.'"

Howard won't be on hand for the event he inspired, however. He's been hospitalized for the past six weeks, but the show goes on.

Keena will be doing live blacksmithing demonstrations at Scrap: Revolve, but he won't be participating in the competition that's integral to the event. Instead, he'll be bringing some history to the celebration of metalwork.

"We're hoping to show the diversity of metalwork," says Keena. "People can watch us take a piece of steel and turn it into something relatable like a key fob or a bottle opener."

Keena and CJ Forge, a smith shop in Hazel Park, make bigger, more complicated objects like table bases, scroll panels, gates, and period-correct Colonial trivets, but for Scrap, they'll be creating small pieces so people can get a sense of how metal goes from being a shapeless form to a useable object. More importantly, they're hoping to show how objects can be forged without using electrical instruments, all the while getting a taste for the practice's historical importance.

"People don't realize that at one point, every tool was made by a village's blacksmith," says Keena. "They made every nail. They think it's all horseshoes and John Wayne movies, but they don't realize every sword in the Bible was made by a blacksmith."

Keena will be the only blacksmith on hand for Scrap: Revolve, the rest of the metalworkers are welders and fabricators. Formed into three teams, they'll compete by taking donated scrap metal and forming the pieces into works of art. Once the sculptures are completed, they'll be auctioned off and all proceeds will go to Green Living Science. The nonprofit teaches the importance of recycling to Detroit public school students.

This inaugural event won't see artists crafting willy-nilly. According to Traffic Jam's events and marketing guru Tara Grey, they have to adhere to a certain subject matter.

"The theme with Scrap: Revolve is kinetic. All the sculptures have to move in some fashion," says Grey. The three teams, Motown Masters, Detroitus, and City Sculpture, will all create a moving sculpture on-site from start to finish.

Robert Sestok will head the City Sculpture team. He's been making metal sculptures since 1985 and turned his hobby into a career. Several of his pieces are set up around downtown Chicago, and recently one of his works went up outside the Hilberry Theatre near Wayne State.

In his artist statement, Sestok says he uses positive cuts to represent man and negative cuts to represent architecture, and for that he likes using metal and the permanence that's afforded by the welding of steel, especially because of the longevity it gives his pieces.

"It's a little different than ice carving, but it's going to be kind of the same kind of thing," he says of the event. "It's a one-day showcase of some of our own talent."

Sestok also says he hopes the event will return next year and that it will give people a better idea of what it looks like to make art with metal. It will also bring awareness to the number of welding studios that can be found in Traffic Jam's neighborhood.

More than just metal, Scrap: Revolve will also feature live music from RJ Stefanski, Erno the Inferno, and Evol. Jenna Nordgren will provide fire performances, and several vendors will be hawking their wares. Food and drink will be available inside Traffic Jam, and live music goes till midnight. — mt

Scrap takes place in the parking lot across from Traffic Jam and Snug at 511 W. Canfield, Detroit on Saturday, Sept. 13 from 2 to 9 p.m. Call 313-831-1265 for more info.

About The Author

Alysa Zavala-Offman

Alysa Zavala-Offman is the managing editor of Detroit Metro Times. She lives in the downriver city of Wyandotte with her husband, toddler, mutt, and two orange cats.
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