If Eric Gesteland ’85 had known where his career path would lead him, he might have earned three degrees from UW-Stout.
His bachelor’s degree in hotel and restaurant management served him well for the first seven years. He landed a job right out of college with Marriott International in the lodging industry.
Gesteland had a front office position at a Marriott hotel in the Chicago area in the early 1990s when his parents asked him to join their southern Wisconsin metal fabricating business, with the possibility of owning it someday. He decided to make a career change and immersed himself in the operation, including in the shop as a metal fabricator for industrial parts.
Knowledge in industrial technology, another program at UW-Stout, would have come in handy.
While learning the family business, he began to create specialty metal pieces on the side, such as wine racks and candle holders, as gifts for friends. “I started getting feedback that perhaps I should be doing this full time,” Gesteland said.
He listened. In 2005 he left his parents’ business and started E Metalworks in the southeastern Wisconsin city of Slinger. He now makes handcrafted metal pieces full time.
“Business has improved every year. I’m developing my own style and starting to get into bigger pieces, more architectural items and some sculpture. A lot of people call me an artist, but I use the term craftsman. I’m not at the stage yet where I can call myself an artist,” Gesteland said.
If he had an art degree from UW-Stout, he might feel differently. “It seems kind of ironic my career took me down two other paths that Stout also is known for,” he said.Gesteland said many specialty metal workers use high-tech tools, but he uses traditional blacksmithing methods to bring out more detail and natural color and make his creations distinctive. “Every day is a new experience. I really enjoy what I’m doing,” Gesteland said.
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Summer Outlook 2012