Brown County inspires Carmel family’s 2,000-pound sculpture


By Anna Skinner

Nathan Brandt has grown up in the midst of metal work, but he just recently completed his largest project yet – an abstract sculpture for the Volkmar family in Carmel.

“We had been friends with his in-laws for almost 20 years,” said Wendy Volkmar on why she and her husband, Karl, chose Brandt. The Volkmars knew Brandt’s wife, Melyn, since she was a child. “I’m an artist, too, so we have a lot in common and we get along really well even though he is our kids’ age. We started talking about him building a sculpture last fall.”

Brandt had done work for the Volkmars previously in the form of a 1,000-pound, steel-frame, indoor fire table that Wendy said the family eats dinner at most nights.

The Volkmars didn’t know what type of sculpture they wanted Brandt to create until they ventured to Brown County.

“We were doing landscaping in the front of our yard and we started seeing these big, steel sculptures with a kind of rusted and organic look. We thought it would look great with what we had put in. That’s where it all started,” Karl said.

Wendy said the sculpture is a rusted abstract representing two dancing figures.

“We didn’t know what we wanted, but we wanted it to be organic and figurative, so we sat down with him and just drew ideas together,” she said. “It’s all steel and copper. It kind of looks like a dancing couple in a dip. Nate is really an amazing guy.”

Brandt lives in Cicero and has renovated an 1880s barn for his workshop. The 24-year-old has done metal work since he was 13.

“This is the biggest thing I’ve ever made,” he said of the Volkmar’s sculpture. “It’s (approximately) 10 feet tall and weighs 2,000 pounds. Every inch is hand-forged. There are about 140 pounds of copper I melted and poured into it.”

Brandt is a co-owner of Coal Ironworks, and he and his partner, Andy Davis, do commission work on furniture for homeowners and some work with restaurants.

“We like to leave (our work) pretty rough so you can tell it wasn’t made by anything other than hands,” he added.

For more, visit Coal Ironworks can be found on Facebook, and to contact Brandt, email [email protected].