SHEARING, PUNCHING, BENDING AND WELDING METALS IN PURSUIT OF ART
"Aah, the industrial life!" is metal artisan Cliff Startup's welcome to his cavernous Pound Ridge work space, where welding torches flare and whistle. His nose and hands are blackened from one project, a handcrafted iron railing for a Chappaqua home. A brawny man (his black belt in martial arts comes in handy as he manipulates a huge sheet of steel in a 14,000-pound iron shear) with a wild mop of white hair, Startup has the look of the village blacksmith. His handiwork graces homes and commercial spaces of the area's most discerning clientele: exquisite lacy gates for local estates, fixtures for Calvin Klein and Oscar de la Renta, and tables for Tommy Hilfiger, to name just a few.
Startup's workshop is lined with huge sheets of steel, copper, brass, aluminum and iron destined for new lives as architectural details (panels, railings, doors, range hoods, furniture) and original garden structures and ornaments (gazebos, fountains, benches). He's particularly renowned for his sensitive restoration of antique garden pieces, such as the mid-19th-century stag sculpture he refurbished for Barbara Israel, the Katonah-based antique garden ornaments dealer who has worked with Startup for 18 years. "I haven't found anyone else who does half the quality of work that he does," says Israel.
Blacksmithing runs in Startup's veins. His great-grandfather plied his trade for German royalty. His grandfather made ploughshares and horseshoes on the prairie. Yet Startup is mostly self-taught. His father, a pilot, dreamed they would have a machine shop together one day. But he died in a plane crash when Startup was just 11, leaving his son to pursue that dream on his own. "I had this tremendous desire to fix things that we couldn't replace," explains Startup. "I became consumed with fixing and equipment."