The main attributes people think of when they think of steel are “cold and hard.” However, neither of these words accurately describes Mike Gallucci’s incredible works of art. He has spent years, developing special techniques using heat and paint and a variety of tools, to bend steel into soft, flowing works of art that invite the viewer in.
Born in Hazelton, Pennsylvania, Mike joined the Army before he even graduated high school. During his 24 years of service, Mike was deployed all over the world, including being stationed at JBLM. The first time was in 1988, and then later he came back in 1999, where he finished out his service. He and his wife Laurie had fallen in love with the Olympia area and decided to stay. When not working in his shop, they enjoy scuba diving, hiking, and other recreational activities. “I love that you are close to everything here, the ocean the mountains – whatever you want to do, there is always something to do,” Mike says. Olympia is also close to Laurie’s family, who live on Vancouver Island.
After the Army, Mike went back to something he had always enjoyed. “Growing up, I was into crafts and initially I did a lot of word-working,” he says. He spent the next eight years as a general contractor and worked on wood craft projects on the side. Then one day in 2008 or 2009, as a fluke, he decided to make a metal, slide-out bed liner for his work truck.
“I started messing around with metal at that point, one thing led to another and I bought a plasma cutter,” Mike says. “And that was the beginning.” After about a year of research, he designed and built his own plasma table, grinder and press. “I try to build everything myself,” he adds.
But the turning point occurred when Mike came across a piece of metal that had swirls going through it. “It caught my attention; the way the light played across it, and the effects it had when you moved,” he recalls. “Most people think of steel as being hard and unforgiving. I see it as something more fluid that you can bend, shape and texture. And using color and light, you can get some amazing effects.”
About five years ago, Mike came across some metal cast paint that had just come to the market. It was an anodizing color paint, and Mike immediately saw the potential of mixing the paint with steel. “I bought every color and just started to play,” he explains.
What he came up with was a unique way of layering heat-temperature tempering, paint and clear coats. The result? Incredible works of art that feel alive.
There was no looking back from that point on. “I love that I can create things I have a deep feeling for. Organic things, things from nature. I love the way the light plays on the paint,” Mike offers. Many of his works depict oceans, sea life, deer, salmon and trees.
The Tree of Life
If you have ever been to Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, you have seen Mike’s favorite piece of all time: Tree of Life. When Mike was a general contractor he had a friend, Dave Easton from Elma, whom he had worked with on many projects over the years. Dave was diagnosed with leukemia and while he was at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, he came up with the tree of life idea. “I made one for him and we donated it to Seattle Cancer Care Alliance,” Mike says. The tree hangs in the lab so people receiving treatments can look at it. Mike says that he gets contacted from people from all over the country who have seen it and decide to commission one of their own. He has made dozens of them since then, including one for Dave’s memorial service and one that serves as a memorial for his mother-in-law. “He was really inspired to start creating such pieces when we were in hospice with her,” says Laurie. It is Laurie’s favorite piece, too.
Mike explains that it is a powerful piece that always ends up in the right hands.
“Even when I make it as just an art piece, it seems like it always ends up with somebody where it has a really deep meaning; they needed it,” Mike says. The Tree of Life is a multitude of flowing colors that represents your journey through life. It starts out green at the beginning, and flows into yellows, browns, oranges and reds, with a circle symbolizing life surrounding it.
Mike gets requests for a variety of projects, and he can make just about anything. He even helped a local firefighter propose to his girlfriend by making a teddy bear with a removable heart that opened up to reveal a key. The man took all the pieces and hid them at geo-caching sites, and at the very last one was the ring. “I love doing stuff that has a deeper meaning and that was a customer’s idea; it’s really great,” Mike says.
A Name Change
Mike is also getting into blacksmithing, including making forge burners that have been very well received. In addition, he holds beginning forge-building and blacksmithing workshops. To reflect his broadening work, as of this month Mike is changing the name of Lacey Metal Designs to Iron Creek Metal Art. He says the new name better reflects what he does. His website and Facebook page will both be updated to reflect the new name. Be sure you keep up-to-date on his new works and upcoming workshops by following him on the Iron Creek Metal Art Facebook Page and Iron Creek Metal Art website when it goes live by the end of this month.