Scathain brings passion, beauty and old world charm to area restaurants
There's art all around us, and some of it can be found in Milwaukee restaurants.
In some cases they're items you don't think too much about – like the tables at Stack'd Burger Bar. Or the mirrors at Wolf Peach.
In other cases, they're things you notice right away – like the wine bottle chandeliers at Pizza Man, or the patio furniture in The Yard at the Iron Horse Hotel.
But, in the end, they're all elements that contribute to a comfortable, memorable dining experience. In these particular cases, they also contribute to the livelihood of numerous Milwaukee-based artists and craftspeople.
John McWilliam, a musician and house painter who specialized in fine finishing, had no idea the success that would follow when he took his first job – a contract with Tim Dixon, developer for the Iron Horse Hotel.
"Tim Dixon asked me to refinish 60 antique chairs in two weeks," says McWilliam. "He told me if I could get it done, there would be more work."
McWilliam finished the job. And one thing led to another. Soon, he found himself seeking out artisans and artists of all stripes – metalworkers, woodworkers, blacksmiths and glass cutters. He started off renting space and metalworking equipment from dairy equipment manufacturer, Glen Ivarson.
Today, Scathain takes up residence in a warehouse space on 4th and Florida in Walker's Point. The team, which includes 22 artists and artisans, specializes in mirrors, handmade furniture and artistic accents.
And Scathain is building momentum. They just finished work on the new 1919 Kitchen & Tap at Lambeau Field. They designed the leather booth seating, the maitre d' stand, the factory window wall and a good deal of the artwork that adorns the walls. They also built the planters for the exterior beer garden at the restaurant.
They've also worked on other projects outside of Wisconsin – including designing mirrors for The Red O in Los Angeles and the Pump Lounge in Hollywood and mirrored tiles for the PF Chang's in Atlanta. Their work can even be found in Neil Patrick Harris' bathroom (they designed the tiles, which were featured in Architectural Digest). And they once designed a mirror for one of the Kardashians.
But how does a small Milwaukee firm get such a firm foothold in both the local and national market?
In a word: artisanship.
Scathain, which means "mirror" in Gaelic, initially gained notoriety for their beautiful mirrors which created multi-dimensional art pieces with through the oxidation of silver on their surfaces.
"You could go and buy a mirror at Pier 1 or another store," says McWilliam. "It will be attractive, and you'll be able to look at yourself in it. But, with our mirrors, you'll find yourself looking – not at your own reflection – but at the mirror itself. It's no longer just a piece of glass. It has personality, depth and life."
But, as they've expanded their services, gaining notable retail partners like Kohler and Anne Sacks, they've also gained a following for the old world craftsmanship and artistry which they employ for each and every product they make.
"Everything is hand-crafted," says McWilliam. "All of our artisans bring themselves to the table, employing a passion for the work with traditional techniques to create unique items that stand the test of time."
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