Sunday, July 17, 2011

Red Star Ironworks

I had the occasion to have a sign created as part of a project for my day job. I wanted the sign to be a little bit different, so I scouted around for different artists in the area. My love of wrought iron steered me in the direction of Red Star Ironworks in Millvale.

Red Star Ironworks is owned and operated by Peter Lambert, who has an inspiring back story of his own. Peter, 30, was not an apt student in high school and dropped out at age 15 and didn't really have a direction for his life. Knowing that he had an artistic side and liked working with his hands, he latched on with the owner of Iron Eden, an iron works studio in Bloomfield.

After getting his welding degree and apprenticing at Iron Eden, Peter started Red Star in 2001. It was originally in Oakland, but moved to a warehouse in Millvale a few years back. Red Star has built pieces for restaurants in Pittsburgh (a sign for the new BRGR in Cranberry just went out the door), falcon statues for gravesites, ornamental fences, and anything else that can be pounded on an anvil, welded together, and bent into shape.

When I went down this past week to check on the progress of the sign, Peter took me for a short walk around Millvale to show me his other passion. Peter and some others with Red Star have worked with Allegheny Grows to plant urban gardens on vacant lots in Millvale. He showed me three separate lots. The first, planted 2 years ago, had 20 cedar raised-bed boxes on it. There were a wide variety of vegetables, herbs, and pumpkins. The second lot, planted one year ago, had a large amount of sunflowers and other flowers planted. The sunflowers, in particular, are rather adept at remediating pollutants that may have existed on these urban lots.

The last lot, started this spring, will be an orchard with apple trees and other fruit-bearers. It reminds me a lot of what Detroit is trying to do on a larger scale -- reducing the footprint of the city by turning vacant and abandoned parts of the city into urban agriculture. Detroit wants to shrink the footprint by reducing the infrastructure load (roads, water, sanitary, power) on certain parts of the city. They are doing this by buying out the few remaining residents in certain blocks and ripping out the infrastructure.

Maybe that's not what Millvale needs to do, maybe it does. But it's good to see that there is a grass roots effort to make Millvale's vacant lots useful. All by one of the top iron artists in the City. So when you go to Sonoma Grille or the new BRGR in Cranberry, think about Peter Lambert and his artistry and his passion for urban agriculture.

1 comment:

  1. That is pretty cool. My best friend from back home had an apartment in "Millburgh" during a chunk of our formative years. It(Millvale) was, well, a dump. :) Still, a fair number of good memories for me live there.

    (In all honesty, the iron work angle is more interesting to me. The place I work now bends metal for just about all of the structures they fabricate, some of which I have a hand in designing. Only one or two of the welders on staff are what I would deem "artistic", but those two come up with some pretty interesting stuff. May have to swing around the area and check out some of this guy's work the next time I'm in town.)