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Featured Shop: Industrial Artifact

Jun 24, 2013

by Nathan Rock

Etsy.com handmade and vintage goods

I’m Nathan Rock, of Industrial Artifact in DeKalb, Illinois. Industrial Artifact is a four-man shop where history meets home. I’m the owner, maker, and resident mover and shaker. Ethan Ridl is our online operations manager – he handles customer care and restorations. Austin Cliffe works on re-wiring and restoration. Matt Grodowski is our warehouse manager – he takes care of item listings and shipping. We spend a lot of time driving across the country going to auctions, estate sales, and factory liquidations hunting for unique pieces from the American industrial revolution. We try to find pieces that capture the history of the places we visit.

From left to right: Matt Grodoski, Ethan Ridl, Nathan Rock, Austin Cliffe.

From left to right: Matt Grodoski, Ethan Ridl, Nathan Rock, Austin Cliffe.

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As the son of a used machinery dealer, I was exposed to the industrial foundations of this country at a very young age. I spent just as much time in various factories as I did in school. In my youth, I found these settings to be rather dreary, but my old man always seemed to see through the rust and dirt to the lasting beauty of the pieces and places we encountered. With age, I grew to see the craftsmanship in these items as well.

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Many of the items we deal with on a daily basis are at least 75 years old. Oftentimes they come to us requiring some maintenance, but the quality of their build is why they’ve endured. It is a pleasure to see rapidly disappearing items reborn, and to rescue them from becoming scrap. Appreciation for the design and build of yesteryear drives our desire to preserve the pieces we work with. Simply put, they just don’t make ‘em like they used to!

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Our favorite piece we’ve made together is our large adjustable industrial table. Building this table was truly a learning experience for everyone involved, and every step of the process required us to learn a new skill. Prior to this project, the largest table I’d ever made was roughly 30″ x 48.” It was Ethan’s first chance to glue a table top, and Austin’s first experience staining and finishing a large table top (it should be noted that Austin is now a wizard with pre-catalyzed lacquer and conversion varnish). This table was not only invaluable to us as a team-building exercise, but as an opportunity for everyone in our shop to develop and hone their skills.

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I think all the members of our shop agree that we have a great deal more satisfaction in the day-to-day activities we accomplish here than in jobs we’ve held in the past. In one day we can transform an item from a dirty, non-functioning relic to an attractive, working showpiece. We often meet challenges which require us to learn new skills, and we’re constantly surrounded by an ever-changing array of interesting artifacts. As an added bonus, we also get to explore some incredibly unique locales in search of our finds.

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Etsy has been instrumental in reaching folks who see the enduring strength and beauty in our pieces, and it has been our single strongest vehicle for sales, growth, and input from the vintage and antiques community. I first heard about Etsy from a friend who runs Secret Agent Arts, but I was luke-warm to the idea of opening a shop. The big eye-opener came on the day we created our shop and almost immediately made our first sale. We soon realized that Etsy was our single-most influential marketplace, and we never looked back.

All photographs by Industrial Artifact.

Featured Shop Archive

Patrician Mid Century Modern Black Vinyl Furniture Set Herman Miller Knoll
Patrician Mid Century Modern Black Vinyl Furniture Set Herman Miller Knoll
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Vintage Industrial 1920's Cast Iron Swing Stool 8 Seat Sani Lunchroom Table
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Vintage Industrial Toledo 381 BD Honest Weight Grocery Store Scale
Vintage Industrial Toledo 381 BD Honest Weight Grocery Store Scale
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Antique Curved Glass Display Case Mercantile Counter
Antique Curved Glass Display Case Mercantile Counter
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Antique Yesbera Baker's Rack Country Store Shelf Adjustable Table
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Vintage Shabby Chic Bathroom Vanity Mirror with Towel Rod
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Vintage Industrial Duro Art 2 Drawer Steel Decal Storage Cabinet
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Antique Industrial Rare OC White Ball Joint Work Lamp Wall Cieling Fixture
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Early Glass Front Farmhouse Storage Cabinet
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Vintage Industrial Allsteel 40 Drawer Steel Parts Cabinet
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Vintage Industrial Metal No Parking Here Advertising Sign
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Vintage Industrial Metal Rialto Corporation Advertising Trade Sign
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Vintage Steel Desktop File Organizer Inbox Outbox Desk Caddy Shelf Paperwork
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Vintage Industrial Wooden Chair Bar Stool Workshop Drafting Machinist
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Vintage T.E. Conklin Brass and Copper Co Inc Measurements and Conversions Sign #1
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Vintage Industrial Antique Padded Arm Front Hall Chair Work Floral Pattern
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Vintage Art Deco Chrome Top Bulb Shadeless Chrome Desk Lamp
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Vintage Apothecary McCracken Steel Smooth Arch Metal Prescription File Box
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Vintage Industrial Appleton Explosion Proof Trouble Lamp Chemistry Lab Stand Scientific Beacon
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Vintage Reese's Adjustable Brass Stencils 2" Figures
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Vintage White Holophane Acorn Shade Swing Arm Dental Light Fixture
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Vintage Industrial 1931 Ritter Adjustable Dental Swing Arm Lamp Medical Steampunk
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Vintage Traditional Chinese Decorative Wood Panel Dragon Phoenix Sign
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Vintage Peter Pan Fresh Bread Metal Advertising Sign
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Vintage Joe's Transmission Steel Sign Pennzoil
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Vintage Masonite Dekalb 680 Flying Ear Seed Sign Farm Advertising
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Vintage Industrial International Time Recording Co. 50 Employee Clock Antique
Vintage Industrial International Time Recording Co. 50 Employee Clock Antique
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Vintage Industrial Victor Spun Aluminum Pendant Lamp Shade
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Vintage Industrial Black Safety Deposit Box Storage Cabinet
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Vintage Wooden Six Tier Filing Cabinet
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Vintage Industrial Swing Stool Parts
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Vintage TT Motorcycle Races Advertising Sign DeKalb Illinois
Vintage TT Motorcycle Races Advertising Sign DeKalb Illinois
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Vintage Embossed Funeral Parking Cast Iron Curb Sign
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Antique Van Houten Cocoa Decoupage Advertisement Sign
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Vintage Caution Eye Protection Safety Sign Ready Made Sign Co
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Vintage Gay Double Edge Razor Blade Tin Advertising Sign
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Vintage Industrial Red 3 Drawer Parts Cabinet Jewelry Box
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Vintage Feen A Mint Laxative Porcelain Enamel Advertising Sign
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Vintage General Electric Motors DeKalb Wooden Factory Sign
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OC White Articulating Task Lamp Vintage Machinist Knuckle Joint
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Vintage Hand Painted Wooden Barber Shop Advertising Sign
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