Issue 111

On The Cover: Danny Thomas from Precision Jewellers 50th Anniversary Celebration - Photo by Trevor Booth. Tuxedo provided by Monty Formal Wear, 519-258-3522.

Issue 102 - Man of Steel

Chuck owns a small fabricating shop up on County Road 42 across from Windsor Airport. His business is called Art Metal and he is a modern day blacksmith with an overly imaginative eye. He works alone and makes a living creating and fabricating practical and purposeful objects – no, check that – he makes a living creating and fabricating works of art. From intricate, wrought iron headboards to stylish, aluminium railings, impressive, iron gates, stunning, glass staircases, twisted, brass wine racks and much more, Chuck turns the practical into beautiful.

“I love taking an idea and then creating it.” He said, “Once I have a mental picture I am always excited to get started...and it’s just a great feeling of accomplishment and pride when I am fiished. I like to stand back and look at what I have created...sometimes I even surprise myself.” He smiled.

His work is completely original and created exclusively for his customers and their specifi needs. If Chuck Solly IV has created something for you, be assured, it’s a one-of-a-kind! And when he’s not fabricating brass handrails for Willistead Manor or building a spiral staircase in a $2 million home, he is an bono fie artist. He would like to have the opportunity for a gallery viewing of his work.

“It would be nice to have an opening in someplace like Toronto,” he mused. But a public exposition is not something he actively pursues.

Chuck has created numerous abstract sculptures including an intimidating eight foot tall Terminator-like being; and his tightly designed, twisting, curving and looping steel wine racks decorated with delicate leaves, vines and grapes are eye-catching as well as functional. There is much more to be said about Chuck’s work but I’ll save myself a thousand words and just say, go to his Facebook page or website and see the pictures.

For Chuck, whether it’s a patterned steel door or a hanging spun wine rack which can hold 90 bottles, it is all art and he is his own staunchest critic. It always has to be perfect and he is endlessly challenging himself with his oftentimes wild imagination. He is one of those people who will see a crushed garbage can in a ditch and stop to scoop it up. He’ll bring back to his shop – he can already picture it re-purposed – and in the flsh of inspiration he’ll beautifully incorporate it into some overall aesthetic design, thus, turning garbage into art.

After all these years he is still surprised at what he is doing today and the change of direction his life took but it might have been inevitable all along. He was not bound to follow in anyone’s footsteps, it would be his own creative nature and limitless imagination that was destined to set the course Chuck’s life would follow. Still, for a time he imagined he would succeed his father and take over the family business, he did not consider one day owning a business such as Art Metal. Actually in his younger days Chuck had a totally, different career mind. He wanted to be a professional drummer!

“We had a shot at it,” Chuck mused, recalling his time as the drummer for a local rock band, “Porcelain Mary.” “We were so close,” he smiles, thinking of what might have been. “We were getting great reviews and picking up gigs as the opening show for some of well known Canadian musicians including the Tea Party. I really thought we had made it, there was talk of recording contracts and then,” he paused and smiled ruefully, “it all went to crap.”

The band lost their agent to marital problems and with no one to pick up the slack their bookings dramatically dropped... it was a slow death...some band members quit or were seriously thinking about it and fially Chuck had to face reality and rethink his music career.

It was right about then when a chance meeting changed the course of his life, but before I introduce the magnanimous Mr. Erkan Cokeogekoglu (his real name) a little more about Chuck.

From the age of 12 he had been hanging around and working at the family mufflr shops. He learned about cars, about arc welding and acetylene torches. His attraction to steel and metal was a blend of fascination and possibilities. Early on he stared making things from discarded metal and old auto parts he would scrounge from a junk room in the back of the shop. The same room by the way where his grandfather would send him when the boy became angry and frustrated.

“Go in that back room and hammer out your anger on an old mufflr.” Said Chuck recalling his grandfather’s old fashioned method of relieving stress. “And it worked!” He laughed, “I’d go back there, pick up a hammer and beat the $#*% out of something and I would always feel better afterwards.”

Heeding his Grandfather’s advice served Chuck well – taking the advice of a complete stranger was a leap of faith. More on that later.

He has an infectious sense of humour to offset his quick temper and like many dedicated artists he might be spun a little too tight at times but Chuck is always a man in control. He is where he wants to be and doing what he loves to do. Still, being a steel wrangler is not a simple life and being artistic doesn’t mean the work is clean and easy. His work is labour intense spending hours cutting, heating, bending, shaping, assembling, welding, grinding and fially painting his creations as well as adding fiishing touches such as granite or glass table tops; glass for fieplace doors and fabric seats for wrought iron furniture.

He picked up drumming instinctually but maybe beating on old mufflrs helped. However the ability and agility he uses for playing drums serves him well as a blacksmith.

“I spend a lot of time swinging a heavy hammer and beating on a 500 pound anvil.” He said. Much of his work entails molding flt steel by heating it red-hot and then striking it repeatedly to shape it, an extremely labourious process and one that can pose physical sideeffects.

“I’ve seen others who do what I do and it’s easy to spot them because they have one normal arm and one Popeye arm!” He grinned, adding, “it’s because they use only one arm for all the hammering they do, being a drummer, I can use both arms equally, I am not bulking up just one arm.” He smiled and held up his arms,
“See, no Popeye.”

Throughout his early life Chuck craved inspiration and motivation. He was frustrated with his future prospects and wasn’t sure which way to go. But oftentimes life gives a sign and points the way. He might not have known that then, but in hindsight he can believe the path had already been laid out and all he needed was a push in the right direction. Enter Erkan Cokeogekoglu!

“He looked like Colombo,” Chuck smiled,“he had on the same kind of trench coat but he was smoking a cigarette instead of a cigar.”

Old Erkan Cokeogekoglu lived in the neighbourhood and was out walking when he stopped to look at the candlesticks Chuck was selling in front of the family mufflr shop on Howard Avenue. Chuck had fashioned them from scrap metal.

“He liked my work,” Chuck said, “and then he started telling me he is Turkish and has worked with steel and metals his whole life and he has his own business called Art Metal. By the end of the conversation he was offering me an opportunity to work with him... an opportunity to learn from an old world master.”

It was the push Chuck needed. He spent the next year or so working along side Erkan and under his close tutelage Chuck was able to further advance his own natural abilities. He learned techniques and methods – the tricks of the trade – from someone who knew all the tricks and probably invented a few himself. But even more, Chuck was learning the trade as a master too! Of course no one can teach creativity but he has always had an abundance of that.

Looking back Chuck said, “The timing was perfect. Without music I didn’t really have anything that inspired me back then...I wasn’t looking for this it all just kind of fell in my lap.”

It has been more than 12 years now since Chuck made the leap and he hasn’t looked back.

When the time came for Erkan to retire – he offered the business to Chuck. Maybe it had been his dream all along to see his old world craftsmanship and the toils of the blacksmith live on. Maybe he was looking for an opportunity too and if you want to believe in coincidence, he could not have found a more capable and creative person than Chuck to advance this ancient tradition of metal working into the 21st century.

Today, Chuck’s passion for his occupation has not abated and his imagination still endlessly abounds. He’s not hurting for work either. The demand for his skilful, artistic and functional creations is growing. But beyond the longevity of metal (“it last’s forever,” says Chuck) what really makes stainless steel, wrought iron, copper, brass and aluminium so attractive is when these materials are transformed by the visions of an artist and fashioned with the craftsmanship of a master. No, Chuck Solly IV is not Superman, and he’s not really made of steel but he is a man of sublime conceptions and dedicated to only getting better.

Visit Chuck at his shop: 3685 County Road 42 or contact him through email at:  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or call him directly at 519-258-5221 today.

file icon html View the Issue

file icon pdf Download the PDF