GTPulse: Young Metal Worker Uses Skilled Trade to Create Art

In a modern world filled with Instagrammers, Youtubers and bloggers trying to prove that they have creative ability or artistic talent, it’s nice to meet someone like Reid Shamus. The 22-year-old doesn’t want to vlog or blog his day, and he doesn’t want to get rich off of social media. He lets hard work speak for him and has even found a creative outlet at work that makes him some extra cash.

Reid is a Kalamazoo resident and native attending college to be a manufacturing engineer, but he’s not using his student status to get out of working. In high school, he took a welding and machining class that gave him some skilled trade experience. Now he works at a custom metal fabrication, and when he’s not working with metal for work, he’s creating art that he sells all over Northern Michigan for his small business, Shamus Metal Works.

“I’ve been working with wood and metal since I was around 13 or 14. I used to make things that teen boys liked to make. Knives, swords, things like that. As I got older I wanted to make a sign. I had seen some stuff with wood that I liked and I kind of wanted to come up with a design of my own.”

He also wanted the sign to be three dimensional. The design he came up with was Michigan cut in metal and placed on a wooden board. Initially, the design was a Christmas gift for his dad.

“I didn’t really think I’d make more of them but then my grandma wanted one.”

This would be flattering for anybody, but especially for Reid because both his father and grandmother are artists. His dad does graphic design and his grandma has worked in glass arts her whole life.

Friends started coming to Reid for a Michigan piece of their own, and this was what spurred him to start making his metal art for a larger audience, that and a little encouragement from his grandma and dad.

“They both encouraged me and told me that it was a possibility. I didn’t dream that up myself.”

For the wood, he uses reclaimed pallets whenever he can from the shop that he works at now. The shop he works at has been helpful and supportive of Reid’s artistic side.

“It helps with a lot of the tools and stuff. They’re nice enough to let me utilize some of those resources that aren’t being used for the business. I create my stuff after hours. They’ve treated me very well there.”

His signature art piece is the Michigan metal on wood, but he has created other pieces and plans on making more. He has an interpretation of the Great Lakes painted in matte black that is made to be mounted on a wall. He also makes a cut out of Gull Lake, and homage to his hometown.

He’s interested in coming up with more design ideas, and the next new design he wants to create is inspired by the Traverse City area.

“It would be where the steel is the land and the relief cut is the water and I would do a section of the Traverse City area because there’s such unique shapes with the peninsulas that jut out. I’m thinking if there’s some interest in a piece like that, people might enjoy that.”

He hs pieces for sale in a few stores in Traverse City, but he wants to work on putting his work out there more.

“That’s one of the things that I’m having to put the most effort into. Sometimes I will go to local craft shows, and social media is another way that way I can reach a broad audience. I walk into stores and show them my piece and ask them if that’s something they’d like to carry in their store. ”

He also makes custom order and finds the challenge of converting someone’s idea into a piece of wood and metal art exciting. 

As a child, Reid was enamored with Native American culture and he credits that to shaping the path he’s on today.

“I was really interested in the things that could create just from the nature around them, and their ingenuity. That’s kind of where the pride and joy of making things started.”

He always knew he would work in a field he could use his hands, but he didn’t always know that it would lead him to follow in his family’s footsteps. Being able to share commonality through art with his family has been one of the most rewarding aspects of Shamus Metal Works.

“They’re proud, and it’s been special to have a shared bond like that with them.”


Categories: GTPulse