By BECKY ANDREWS
It all began with a trip to a yard sale. Rick Wittrig, owner of Fire Pit Art, was on one of his regular jaunts visiting local yard sales looking for hidden treasures when he spotted a metal fire pit. He made an offer then loaded it into his truck. Not long after, the second hand fire pit fell apart and caught the Wittrigs’ yard on fire. That’s when Rick noticed how poorly it was made. “I could have gone out and purchased another fire pit but it would only be a matter of time before it would fall apart too. That’s when the idea came to me. I had a friend who used the center of old propane tanks to craft smokers for cooking meat. The pieces that were left behind were perfect for creating my version of a fire pit.”
After creating his first masterpiece, he got several compliments and soon he was taking orders from friends. It became very clear that Wittrig was on to something.
So two years ago he took a leap of faith and ordered 20,000 pounds of steel, created a website and began showcasing his product at art shows across the country. The shows brought Wittrig acclaim for his eye-catching pieces that were also practical. But after spending so much time away from home he realized he was missing out on quality family time with his wife, Donna and their 7 year old daughter, Isabella. So began his search for an additional way to reach consumers. That’s when he decided to contact Woodland Direct.
The Michigan based company is one of the largest e-commerce companies focused on the Fireplace, Chimney, Wood Stove, and Outdoor Living markets. They represent more than 250 vendors who specialize in creating outdoor living spaces. “It was clear the folks at Woodland Direct could help me reach the masses and it was just more practical. It also allowed me to focus on creating more one of a kind pieces.”
It was his relationship with Woodland Direct that led to a once in a lifetime opportunity. “The organizers for the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver saw my work on the Woodland Direct website and called to commission a Globe I was working on.” At the time he received the phone call, organizers needed to get the piece within a week and under normal circumstances Wittrig could have made this deadline work. But, he happened to be on his way out of town to visit his mother who had been in a bad car wreck. “I told them there was no way, but let me make sure my mom was going to be ok and I would finish the piece and get it to them in two weeks. They said, ‘yes.’ After my mom’s condition stabilized, I returned home to finish and ship the piece.”
Even with a tight deadline the Globe shaped fire pit named, Third Rock, made it to Vancouver Olympics in time for the opening ceremonies. Since then he has received many inquiries about making a similar fire pit. “The one that I finished for the Olympics started as something I was making for me personally. After sending that one to Vancouver I started another for my family and got a call about that one so I sold that one. So far, I still don’t have the globe for us to enjoy…yet,” Wittrig noted with a laugh. It took him 30 hours to create the historical fire pit that helped put Fire Pit Art on the map. Third Rock shined brightly in Vancouver with a 150,000 British thermal units flame.
In the future Wittrig would like to expand his art to include accessories for outdoor fire pits. In the meantime, he will continue to focus on creating well built fire pits that compliment any outdoor living space.
To see more of Rick’s work, log onto www. firepitart.com.