2 min

Heavy metal

Local welder offers elegant metalwork at Ikea prices

Wendy Kelloway gave up a job as a bus driver to open her own metal-art studio.

Wendy Kelloway’s studio may look like a cross between an auto mechanic’s shop and a torture chamber, but the metal art she creates there is chic, elegant and (forgive the pun) on the cutting edge of interior design.

For 12 years, this Toronto artisan has been crafting everything from sleek steel wardrobes to delightfully whimsical candelabras with a combination of sheet metal and salvaged iron that gives her work a look that is both charmingly vintage and coolly modern.

“I love the combination of textures and finishes,” says Kelloway, who dubbed her studio Weld Done Designs. “Metal gives you such freedom that way.”

Looking at the artist’s larger furniture pieces, it’s almost hard to believe that each has been crafted and welded entirely by hand. There’s a polished, solid feel to the wardrobes, shelving and screens that would fit right in at any high-end urban-design store. She used to sell to such outlets but now focuses on dealing directly with designers and the public through her downtown east-side showroom.

“I want people to be comfortable coming in to the studio space, to see how pieces fit in a home environment,” she says.

It’s a canny move that allows her to showcase her scope and skill. The studio doubles as Kelloway’s home, with elegant metal screens separating her living space from the display areas. An astounding floating metal staircase that she designed and built leads up to a loft, while delicate metal Japanese screens slide open and closed to create dimension and privacy.

The kitchen is a revelation, with blackened metal cabinetry and reclaimed timbers blending functionality with an ultra-cool aesthetic. Her signature candelabras dot the room, overseen by twisted metal face art that adorns the walls. It’s magical.

I sneak a peek at the price tags and am surprised at how affordable even the larger wardrobes are: you’d pay about the same price for a flimsy fake-wood piece from Ikea, which would be dust long before Kelloway’s masterpieces even begin to show signs of wear. 

“There’s a price point where one-in-10 can afford your work,” she says with a shrug. “I’d rather nine out of 10 can afford it.”

Given the hours and sweat equity invested in each piece, it’s clear that this artisan’s primary focus is a combination of personal fulfillment and creative impulse. Otherwise she would have stuck with her previous job driving bus in Victoria, BC. But security and routine never stood a chance once Kelloway discovered her calling.

“I knew the moment I sparked my first arc,” she says, of the spray of light that’s emitted from a freshly lit welder’s torch. “When you’re making $25 an hour with benefits, it becomes kind of hard to leave. But I realized that money isn’t everything, and I’ve never regretted it.”