Date: May 4, 2018 | Story: Tiffany Adams | Photography: Rett Peek |
Meet Anthony Billingsley: Wielding torches and welding works of art is a career as well as a passion for this central Arkansas metal worker
Your work is appearing everywhere around central Arkansas—from the 7-foot-tall sign at the newly renovated 42 Bar and Table to the interiors of countless metro-area homes. Tell us more about what you do as a metal worker. I make everything from furniture to railings and doors to production pieces for lighting companies, and I’ve even made actual light poles. Of course, I do a lot of custom work, too. I work with all kinds of metals to create these pieces, including raw steel, stainless, brass, and copper. And I also do several different types of welding to create these pieces.
What were some of the first things you created? This whole idea actually started because I hated seeing my boxer, Bella, eat off the ground. I made her a decorative dog-bowl stand where she can eat in style like we do. It just kind of grew from there.
Is that where the name “Iron Paws” originated? Yes. I like to say Bella and I started a company together. She was the reason why I began making the dog bowls and that led to what I do today. I like to think of her and Reno [Anthony’s Siberian Husky] as my business partners.
Picking up a torch to create a metal piece seems pretty intimidating. How did you learn to do this? I really just learned on my own. My brother and I started out doing all the management stuff for our properties [Anthony’s family owns Tri-B Realty, Inc.], you know, working on the gates and whatever we needed to do. That’s kind of how I learned. I did take shop class in school, but I didn’t start welding until I got here to do this. It went from doing knick-knack stuff for the properties to doing the dog bowls and now to doing more intricate things. Every job I do is a learning experience. Ninety-nine percent of the jobs I do, I’ve never done before; I just teach myself as I go.
What are some of your favorite projects? I love working with designers because they bring me some of the most interesting assignments. My friend Chris Pritchard of CWP Productions introduced me to Tanarah Haynie (of Tanarah Luxe Floral), and I began doing pieces for her design business. From there, she was kind enough to introduce me to a number of interior designers, and I’ve had the chance to work on some really interesting furniture pieces, railings, and other things they have dreamed up. All of them challenge me, and it makes everything a learning experience. I feel like if I quit learning, then I might as well just quit.
Can anyone reach out to you with an idea for a project? Absolutely! Today, sites like Houzz and Pinterest make people feel more confident and inspired. When people bring their own idea to me, they have a little pride in it. They can be a part of the design process and see it come to life. So I encourage people to bring their ideas and sketches to me, and we’ll create it.
Above: Quality is paramount on any project Anthony does. He spent countless hours onsite building this custom railing, which features balusters sunken into the hardwood flooring. “We wanted to go the extra mile and do this for the client,” Anthony says. “It gives a high-end, custom look.”
To connect with Anthony, visit iron-paws.com, call (501) 580-1334, or follow him on Instagram: @ironpawsbyanthonybillingsley