Metal craft often conjures up symbols of solid strength, like the skeletal I-beams of a rising skyscraper. The delicately wrought creations of Bill Coleman, who runs Arc Angels, Inc. in Dunedin, Florida, bring to mind more flexible forms. Recent projects include a customized bike rack in the shape of an antique locomotive and a peach tree wall sculpture complete with hand-forged fruit. Coleman is an artist by any measure, but one with a business to run, a task he believes becomes easier with membership in the National Ornamental & Miscellaneous Metal Association (NOMMA).
“NOMMA is a very good educational and networking source for anyone in the metalworking industry, including suppliers and fabricators,” says Coleman. “It provides a great service.”
Coleman’s history with the industry dates back to his teenage years in Sarasota in the ‘60s. After learning about railing and fabrication while working part time at his father and uncle’s firm, American Metal Products, Coleman founded his own company, a 25-person firm focused on making railings and other products for customers domestically and overseas.
Over the last few years, Coleman has focused on the more artistic end of metalworking, both for his own firm and for the Institute for Creative Arts, a school he helped start that’s focused on passing down Old World blacksmithing styles. He’s found that NOMMA benefits, like the ListServ information exchange, provide leads and camaraderie amongst colleagues and allow him to share his specialized knowledge. It’s led to jobs as well, like a recent project to provide aluminum railing to a school in North Dakota.
“With ListServ, you get expertise and answers on how to do just about anything,” says Coleman. “What to do to blend welds, the anodizing processes, powder coating, code requirements of steel versus aluminum railing… members that have expertise in these area come and answer anything. If you had to learn it the hard way, those lessons would costs thousands and thousands of dollars.”
Coleman also says the NOMMA community is especially helpful when it comes to one-of-a-kind projects, which are difficult to scope out and properly execute without experience.
“It’s always an education no matter who you are, big or small,” he says. “The smaller you are, the more you can learn.”
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