Joshua Kurek is a Manchester native who has always enjoyed working with his hands and creating. “Sometimes were more constructive than others,” he said. “I was always interested in drawing and designing.”
When Kurek was 13 years old, he liked to draw logos for imaginary businesses. The only art classes he took were in school but he never fit the mold. “The art classes they teach in school don’t let you flourish creatively and I never thrived artistically in them,” he said.
Kurek only built things for fun or for his family until 2016 when he attended Stevenson University majoring in Visual Communication Design. For his senior capstone class, he was required to design and complete a project that encompassed what he learned in four years. Since Kurek did not gravitate toward computers, he decided to use a more physical approach.
The exhibition was based around the topic Questions. Each student was tasked with asking a question and answering it with their project. “My question was: In what way can you use reuse materials? It was my take on the up-cycling movement that took everyone by storm,” Kurek said.
Lori Rubeling, the professor who taught the class, saw that Kurek needed to follow a different path and do something to showcase his woodworking and metalworking abilities. As part of the project she also encouraged him to start a business. Kurek created a fake business for the exhibition but his work was so well received that he was able to turn it in to a real business after he graduated.
Kurek made three pieces for the show including a bench from pallet wood; an old iron gate and flooring out of an old Baltimore row home and a table made out of a crankshaft, pistons and license plates. He also made a bench constructed from an old oil barrel.
Kurek put photographs on Facebook of the pieces he made to promote the exhibition. His parents and some of his friends wanted him to build pieces for them. One of those commissions led to him meeting his girlfriend. She asked him to build a coffee table from the wood from the Leister Family Dairy Farm once in Hampstead. Now that the word has spread, he gets commissions from a wide variety of places.
Because of the spreading excellent reputation of his craft work, Kurek was asked to participate in the South Mountain Creamery’s Spring Festival (southmountaincreamery.com) last year.
Kurek made some benches for the Baltimore Museum of Industry’s (bmi.org) new transportation exhibit last year. The benches were made of steel and the spindles on them were originally part of the gate at his grandmother’s house.
Kurek has volunteered at the BMI for a year and a half and he hopes to work in the museum field in the future designing and building exhibits. Currently, he works with John Reuter, who builds the exhibits. Kurek assists Reuter and others in the design, construction and maintenance of the museum’s exhibits.
He also operates an Acorn Press and mid-1930s Linotype machine to demonstrate the printing processes from the Gutenberg era to modern day computers. The Linotype machine was a hot metal line system for typesetting a line at a time instead of the earlier method of putting one letter at a time down for printing. It was used from the 19th century to the 1980s for printing everything from newspapers, posters and magazines.
In addition to his woodworking, Kurek also builds steam punk inspired lamps. Steam punk is a type of science fiction that merges with historical steam technology. Designs from fashion to furniture trends have evolved from this style. Kurek’s lamps can be found on his website and are for sale at the BMI’s gift shop.
“My dad and I used to build things together and I fell in love with it," he said. "It was always a bonding experience for us. I always joke with people and say woodworking is my therapy that I get paid for. I just like to make something cool out of nothing.”