Sparks Fly: Cape Artisan Rachel Paolino
Rachel Paolino transforms metal into captivating creations
Rachel Paolino admits she’s obsessive. When it comes to her work, that is. No detail is overlooked in her handcrafted metal sculptures and custom home furnishings. From the chemical patina she uses to achieve just the right color, down to the screws and rivets she hammers in, everything is meticulously thought out, and each piece—industrial yet delicate—is designed to be truly one of a kind.
“That’s the exciting part—no two things are alike,” Paolino says. “I’m always getting to come up with new and creative ways to put things together.”
When it comes to what she makes, the sky’s limit—actually, more like the sky is just the beginning. “I never say no to anything. People come to me with these crazy ideas—they have an idea for something and they can’t find it anywhere—so when they come to me with a specialized idea like that it’s fun to have to figure out how to make it,” she says.
The craziest thing she’s ever had to figure out how to make: a display stand for a large antique butcher’s scale. She created a sturdy steel tripod, affixed with a shepherd’s hook to hold the scale and a boat weight anchor to weigh it down. “The owner came to me wanting a way to display this antique scale—she didn’t want to put a chain from the ceiling,” Paolino explains. “She wanted the stand to also be a piece of art.”
Art is exactly what Paolino creates, whether it’s practical, like a railing, or decorative, like a three-dimensional shark sculpture. Growing up in Providence, Rhode Island, Paolino says she always wanted to be an artist. “My dad was into photography, my uncle is into painting, and being in Providence I was surrounded by lots of art,” she says. In high school, Paolino began following in her father’s footsteps by taking up photography, which she set out to study at Rhode Island College. “I took a 3D class, and the teacher asked if I had thought about doing sculpture because I was good at 3D building,” she recalls. “And I really loved it, so I decided to just go for it, not really thinking about what I was going to do with that when I graduated. I was in school and having fun, so I didn’t really care—even though everybody told me ‘There’s no money in that,’ I just did it because it made me happy.
“I’ve always been attracted to metal,” she adds. “It’s strong, powerful, and I’m this small-statured girl, and working with it gives me this sense of power and makes me feel stronger.”
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