Montana Made: Bootlegger Metal Creations, Big Sky Pipe & Supply
By Keeley Van Middendorp - MTN News
Mike Stahler says his creations are unique; he doesn't use a laser cutter so he says his designs are never the same. (MTN News photo)
Bootlegger Metal Creations was born from Big Sky Pipe & Supply, which sells a variety of metal pipe and has created more than 500 customized bridges over the past 15 years. (MTN News photo)
Mike says his passion for metal art first sparked while at a farm auction with his father, Ed Stahler. (MTN News photo)
GREAT FALLS -
Bootlegger Metal Creations in Great Falls says they’re getting ready for the upcoming Farmer’s Market season.
Owner Mike Stahler says his Montana Made products are always popular at the market, with a new customer base each time they return.
Stahler is a fifth generation Montana businessman with metal on his mind.
"From nuts and bolts to art that you hang on your wall," said Stahler.
But he hasn't always harnessed his creative abilities to produce handmade metal signs and art.
Bootlegger Metal Creations was born from Stahler's father's company, Big Sky Pipe and Supply, which sells a variety of metal pipe and has created more than 500 customized bridges over the past 15 years.
"We've got bridges now in all the way from Minnesota to Washington and from Alberta to Utah," said Ed Stahler.
Mike Stahler says his passion for metal art first sparked while at a farm auction with his father.
"I bought a used plasma cutter there and started doing things around our regular business with that and then eventually started doing scenic wildlife and stuff and moved to the farmer's market and it's just built from there," said Mike.
He says Bootlegger Metal Creations continues to grow, working alongside Big Sky Pipe and Supply to produce metal decor.
"People order a bridge from us for the main business and then y'know I can do their name or their address," said Mike.
His creations are unique because he doesn't use a laser cutter, Mike said. As a result, his designs are never the same.
"People generally tend to view it more as artwork because there's a human element involved making it, and I can do five of the same pattern but just because of human trial and error all five are gonna be a little bit different, " said Stahler.
Mike says he's also able to customize a variety of finishes for his metal creations that give them a completely different look.
He believes art preserved in metal stays with customers longer then most hand made products.
"And actually made cut outs that look just like their dog, to a fish that somebody caught, or somebody's got an elk and they want a metal cutout of the head and rack. It's always there, y'know, it's a hard reminder of your memories," said Mike.
Bootlegger Metal Creations can produce more than art. Mike says he's had a variety of customer orders he's been able to fill over the years.
"We actually built a chimney box and it was 4 feet wide and 8 feet long and probably 30 feet tall, so that was a neat one. It was a centerpiece for a cabin, " said Mike.
Mike says the plan is to devote himself full time to Bootlegger Metal Creations further down the road.
"We've been developing this for him so he can have a business up and going when I decide to retire," said Ed.
"I like the artwork more than I do the big heavy outside stuff ," said Mike with a laugh.
To find out more about Bootlegger Metal Creations, click here.
For more information on Big Sky Pipe and Supply, click here.
To see other featured Montana Made businesses, click here.