Artistic Home Furniture

Eclectic Treasures (TM)


Eclectic Treasures is Proud to Present The Artist of Iron Chinchilla


Patrick Neuwirth & Michael Holloway

  Patrick Neuwirth has been honing his skills as an artist for the better part of ten years. While his resume' does not include a long list of prestigious academic studies in the design field, his whimsical approach to rigid structure and flowing form have been well received in art galleries and furniture stores alike. But the road to the Chinchilla was a bumpy one to say the least. After graduating High School in the Midwest metropolis known as Des Moines , Iowa , Patrick took a welding job as an ironworker in the field of security installations. He quickly developed a love for working with steel and an appreciation for the versatility and boundless design energy the material presents. Slowly his creative nature began to take over and he soon found himself staying late at work, digging through scrap bins for the sole purpose of bending and welding channel iron and re-bar into unique creations that personified the “beauty in the eye of the beholder” philosophy. Thankfully, time and tenacity are wonderful teachers, and his creations quickly began to take on a more recognizable appearance. Patrick's unique view of furniture design first received acclaim in 1993 when he was commissioned to design and fabricate thirty dining tables for the chic Chinese restaurant where he worked as a bartender. The response to his literally “twisted” design was so encouraging, it was only a matter of time before he was turning in his two week notice at his day job and diving full-time into the furniture design business. He titled his venture Zero Tolerance, meaning “no deviation from a set standard”, and those standards were to be set by his imagination. Zero Tolerance began in the spring of 1994, lasted about nine months, and proved to be a very fruitful experience. Granted, the fruit was more educational than monetary. However, Patrick's designs found homes in a trendy pizza joint, a punk rock nightclub and an architectural firm, not to mention numerous private collectors. He received critical acclaim in several gallery shows throughout the Midwest in that short time and even graced the pages of Country Home magazine. Sadly, in January of 1995 Zero tolerance folded, leaving Patrick with a taste of what was to come. After re-locating to the Dallas area in July of 1995, Patrick continued to design on a much smaller scale, filling gift shops and specialty boutiques with some of the most bizarre candle holders and picture frames they had ever seen. He continued to scratch his designing itch in this small way for several years. However, waiting tables, a short lived shot as a restaurant manager, and a very persuasive wife got the best of him, and he began to design again in the fall of 2000. In April 2001, Patrick began brainstorming with Michael Holloway, a client and aspiring entrepreneur, on ideas for a Functional Art Studio. They quickly realized that the talents of one complemented the other and they began to put their mutual dream into motion. The Iron Chinchilla became a reality in June 2001 and continues to be forever dedicated to expanding the parameters of furniture. Patrick currently lives in the Ft. Worth suburb, Keller , Texas with his wife Tina and their three dogs and two cats. His other interests include volunteering at his church and playing the guitar

     Michael Holloway

   R. Michael Holloway was the long-haired maverick sort of high school student who A-ced calculus, English and chemistry classes but settled for F's in typing and tennis. His senior English essay wowed his high school teacher; she said it was the best she had ever seen. Still, his overall high school GPA made him questionable college material. “If a subject didn't hold my attention, I just didn't want to waste the time I knew could be better spent elsewhere, and when I felt like that about a subject, I just didn't go to the class,” says the now 44-year-old Holloway, a lean volleyball-playing athlete with his once again long hair pony-tailed down his back. Yet, this is the same Fort Worth native who graduated in 1984 from Texas Christian University with a bachelors of business administration/finance degree. And he is the same self confessed “late bloomer” and football athlete whose coming 17-year accounting career would see him tackle personal business manager roles, in succession, for the wealthy Elton Hyder and Tommy Taylor families of Fort Worth. Then in spring 2001 – his business, estate, trust and investment management and accounting future already secured by his praised and highly paid work for the two Fort Worth multimillionaires, their children and grandchildren – Holloway chucked it all for “something completely different”: an independent career in the business of art. Now, that 1976-'80 teen “attitude” of his would seem to fit the stereotype of Holloway's role as founder of The Iron Chinchilla Functional Art Studio. Startling his friends and business associates in spring 2001, he shucked his “staid, quiet accounting” persona, his six figure check, his ties, three-piece suits and shined shoes. Opting for jeans and boots, Holloway morphed into a self-styled “artistic marketing maverick” and created the Iron Chinchilla with self-styled “manic metal artist” Patrick Neuwirth. But, like his accounting alter ego, this mature Holloway is intensely focused. In just over four years, Holloway's marketing and business management has channeled Iron Chinchilla's whimsical, sometimes wacky, weird and inspirational designs – all sturdy, top-quality furniture and accessories – into more than 200 galleries in 32 states plus Washington , D.C. “Though I can't prove it,” he said, “we probably have retail pieces in homes, apartments or offices in every state. We have also shipped pieces to Germany and England . That's good progress for a company that was pulled out of the dirt only four years ago.” Clientele, journalists and even Holloway agree that many of the Iron Chinchilla's works evoke Dr. Seuss, Alice in Wonderland and Beetlejuice illusions of metal in fluid motion or skewed balance. Holloway's Iron Chinchilla metamorphosis began cautiously in spring 2001, considering the venture while still working as Tommy Taylor's private business manager. For Taylor , then investment ramrod for the famous billionaire Bass Enterprises brothers, Holloway worked as an officer or director of 11 corporations and as trustee of six trusts. As business “quarterback” for Taylor over a five year period, he formulated budgets; oversaw construction; bought and sold homes, villas, yachts, airplanes, land and other personal properties; tracked income, cash flow and expenditures; set up trusts; oversaw all accounting and legal functions and acted as the liaison between Taylor and Bass Brother commingled investments. Prior to the Taylor job, Holloway had served as chief financial officer and operations manager for Elton Hyder's family and personal investments, including three corporations and three partnerships in real estate development and/or management, three estates, two private foundations, oil and gas royalties and other finances. Previously Holloway had been chief accountant for the Fort Worth State School . “After 17 years of working for someone else,” Holloway recalled deciding, “It would be a lot of fun to do something entirely different. . . . I turned off my mind and listened to my inner self for direction. I always liked the idea of reincarnation” Holloway said playfully, “I'm not sure I'll get a chance to live a completely new life in a new body at some point in the future so I thought it best to live as many lives in the one body that I have”. In June 2001, Holloway was decided: “I wanted to create a niche industry where people could find something very different,” he said. “I was tired of going from store to store and finding the same designs over and over. I wanted to bring something new and unusual to light. I had a silent knowing that Patrick and I contained within us just the right mixture of talent to make it work.” He committed $40,000 to the startup art-as-business concept. The idea was to foster “unfettered artistic creativity” within the parameters of “designing and hand-making functional furnishings” for the home or office – and “creating a niche industry” by selling the one-of-a-kind results. Holloway and Neuwirth set up in Neuwirth's garage with the appropriate tools and an agreed upon set of designs. “I had a strong feeling from the outset that this concept was going to be successful,” said Holloway Holloway's timing, obviously through no fault of his own, wasn't exactly propitious. Under Holloway's “trial” investment, the duo worked all summer preparing for The Iron Chinchilla's September 2001 debut art show in Southlake's Classic Café. At that point, Holloway figures he had about $9,000 invested in raw materials, equipment, Neuwirth's weekly pay, and $3,000 for the one-night Classic Café rental. The “coming-out” fizzled on that scheduled Sept. 15 night. Four days after the 9/11 terrorism attacks shocked the world, only 28 of more than 200 invitation-only guests attended – “nearly all family and friends” – prompting Neuwirth to think Holloway would cut his losses and walk away from the venture. “I don't believe in outward signs determining my providence,” Holloway said. “It was all so gloomy, tragic, an invasion on our soil, but such an event wasn't going to decide this venture for me. I was not going to let that happen.” He had yet to deplete his budget. “I was going to let the world cool down a little bit, throw some more money at it and get back in the game somewhere, down the road,” Holloway said. And the rest, as they say, is history. With Holloway growing his list of client galleries proliferating under his reliable service from two galleries in 2002 to more than 200 galleries nationwide this summer, the welding sparks have been flying hot and heavy as Hollloway, Neuwirth and apprentices hand-bend, -weld and –burnish Iron Chinchilla's original designs in the custom-equipped, no-automation 6,000 square foot studio. Holloway works seven days a week sometimes for months at a time attending numerous art shows across the county. He is also the hands on business manager for the Iron Chinchilla having to personally handle every aspect of the business. What partnered Holloway and Neuwirth, two men of mostly paradoxical personalities, it turned out, was their desire to wage “an attack on sameness.” “Don't even bother to come here if your looking for something predictable or a cookie-cutter design,” warned Holloway at the 711 Katy Road studio-gallery. The two have ensured no chance for duplication: The studio has no dyes, casts, other pre-set forms, blueprints, other fixed designs and no mechanized automation. Hand-wielded welders, saws, sanders, polishers and vises are the only tools. Holloway is the former “quiet accountant,” and introvert Christian who loves his pet dogs like children and independent thinker who loves numbers, gaming, the Fort Worth Symphony, TCU football and, also as an canvas artist in his own right, cherishes his own private painting and drawing. At TCU, Holloway found his love for business math: “It's nice when you can take all these huge numbers from all these crazy sources and bring them into all one thing that makes sense, and everybody can go, ‘aahhh, I get it.' ” He adds: “If something is not done right down to the penny, it'll hit on me. I'll play with it until it gets done, but I don't let that task take my vision away from the bigger picture.” In addition to the multitude of other duties Holloway also has responsibility for the grueling traveling schedule displaying the creations at four wholesale and twenty retail shows each year all over the country. “I am away from home more days than at home right now. But that is changing as we are just beginning to be accepted into the top 10 ranked shows in the country. As a direct result of being accepted to the best shows I'll be participating in a fewer number of shows while putting more to the bottom line, and be able to spend more time in Fort Worth.” Says Holloway: “We are a bit of an anomaly right now. We are taking something functional and making it art….and taking art and making it functional. We have almost no competition at these shows. The unusual aspect of the Iron Chinchilla creations allows me to sell more, which allows the art to grow freely, which allows me to sell more. The process of creating and selling feeds on itself.” One of The Iron Chinchilla's earliest clients, Uncommon Angles gallery owner Judy Shelton of Fort Worth was impressed: “I knew he would do well,” she said recently. “Michael, he's very professional. He's just very accommodating. He did his homework. He tries to save my gallery money.” Hyder said he was surprised by Holloway's art move but not by his success. “Michael brought competency, integrity and stability to our businesses and foundations,” Hyder said. “I could rely on the numbers.” Hyder also praised Holloway's multi-tasking, handling of the complexities of foundations, estates, trusts, real estate and corporations, and “saving me from one very expensive mistake.” At a time, the early 1990s, when computer software reliability was tough to evaluate, Holloway “was kind of my headlights” to evaluate the prospective new computer systems for one to meld into the family businesses, Hyder said. “I'm a fan of people who look inside themselves and take that leap, sort of shedding their skin and becoming someone else,” Hyder said. “Michael has done that. He's so different, so hands-on, so creative. . . . Few people take that leap. I just really find it courageous.” Dwayne David Hitt, a Fort Worth-based business and corporate lawyer, first met Holloway when they were freshmen considering pledging a TCU fraternity in 1980. “My first impression of Michael was, ‘He's kind-a cool.' Not in the Fonzy way but in a truly unflappable way. Nothing ruffled him,” said Hitt, who served as recording secretary to Holloway's president of Delta Tau Delta. “He was a guy's guy,” Hitt said. “Everybody liked him, and that's rare among 40 young, hormone-charged men. They voted him ‘Best Brother.' . . . He was deserving.” Holloway wasn't a schmoozer, but more like a Holden Caulfield looking after the frat brothers, “catching in the rye” those who drank too much or had school or girl problems, Hitt said. “He was the kind of guy you go to, naturally, the older brother.” Holloway recalls, “I didn't even plan on going to college. It just kind of happened at the last minute. . . . I never think in terms of what I am going to do tomorrow. My thoughts are always focused on today, this moment.” Hitt said he's impressed with Holloway's passion for The Iron Chinchilla, driving the nation regularly to market Iron Chinchilla's creations. “He sees the work being bigger than himself,” Hitt said. Holloway mused, “My ultimate goal in life is to become the kind of person my dog thinks I am.

                                                                                                                      Design Process
The personality of each piece of furniture created, begins with the steel. The color, texture and rigidity vary from mill to mill. So with each order placed, although the dimensions of the iron remain the same, the characteristics vary greatly. The "creator" chooses not to see this as a negative, letting the steel dictate how it is going to perform and then pushing it to those limits.  The Iron comes in 20 foot “sticks” that are cut down to the appropriate lengths. A tape measure is used to adhere to the laws of ergonomics, like the seat height on a chair, but does not play a role in the design. The "creator" prefers to “eyeball” each cut as the project begins to take shape. This process ensures that each piece of functional art develops not by the dictation of measurements, but by the flow of inspiration and imagination.  Each bend, whether subtle or dramatic, is formed using only a simple vise and an assortment of "cheater bars". From there, the construction of the project relies greatly on the welds. With more than fifteen years of experience in the welding field, great pride is taken in both the look and the strength of each weld no matter how small. Using the welding electrode in much the same way a potter uses clay, several welds are layered one on top of the other when connecting the pieces and forming the structure. A grinder is used to achieve a seamless transition from one curve to the next. Once the construction is completed, the entire project is brushed down with a cup brush attached to a grinder. Spinning at a rate of 10,000 rpm, it removes much of the scale and slag from the welds and gives the item a more uniformed appearance. A grinder with an abrasive paper disk attached to a rubber backing pad is then used to achieve the burnished look that is becoming a trademark of there work. Most clients prefer the look of the iron in its raw form to any other color under the rainbow, but protecting that look has proved to be a challenge. A couple of options that work very well include a clear epoxy enamel, applied in several coats to preserve the iron and prevent rust. The enamel is sufficient protection for indoor conditions, but for an outdoor application, the piece of furniture is put through a "powder coating" process. Powder coating uses extreme heat to bake the finish on the metal and give it much more durable protection. Once the piece has been painted, fabric, tile, wood or glass is added to finish the piece. It is then signed, dated and titled. As you navigate through this collection, please keep in mind that each design you view was born not from a student of the arts, but rather a student of life and a simple welder with an overactive imagination. Each design develops at the workbench in real time, not on a drawing board. This process allows each piece of functional art to grow on its own and not be restricted by standards set in place before the saw even touches the metal. Hopefully, the end result will be a functional part of our day-to-day lives that looks like something from the other side of the looking glass.


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