7 October 2022

Matt's business has grown from 'old and interesting' to cutting edge metal art

| Chris Roe
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Man in workshop

Matt Bye has turned his love of metal art into a booming business. Photo: Chris Roe.

Wagga’s Matt Bye has turned his love of metalwork, sculpture, antiques and old bits and pieces into a thriving business that he can barely keep up with.

The family-run Old n Dazed on Wagga’s Hammond Avenue is like an Aladdin’s cave packed with metal art, sculptures, signs, firepits and a random assortment of intriguing antiques.

Once, Matt worked quietly restoring and selling antiques and tinkering with his art, but now his days are chock full of cutting, crafting and plotting custom designs on the workshop’s industrial CNC (computer numerical control) machine.

“Yeah, always doing custom jobs,” says Matt indicating the piles of requests for personalised signs and artworks.

“I almost can’t keep up with the emails regarding those.”

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Wagga born and bred, Matt did his trade in furniture restoration.

“I started out doing the restoration work in the parents’ back shed,” he explains.

“One thing led to another and I started buying and selling antiques and anything old and interesting.”

It was during his downtime at the shop that Matt began tinkering with metalwork.

“I was just filling in time at the shop, waiting to sell old stuff and I just started making things out of the scrap metal that we used to get from farms,” he says.

“Initially it was barstools and that sort of thing and then the old man (father Greg Bye) made the first life-sized horse.”

vegimite sculpture

Aussie Favourite by Matt Bye made from recycled and scrap metal. Photo: Supplied.

The pair have become regular exhibitors at art shows like the Spirit of the Country and have picked up prizes at the National Farm Art Sculpture Awards.

But Matt says things have become so busy that he’s had little time for sculptures in the past few years.

“I love making those big sculptures out of scrap metal but they take time and there’s not really much of a market for that sort of thing and it doesn’t really help keep the doors open.”

As the demand for two-dimensional metal art for lawns, gardens and sheds took off, it was time to step up production.

“We first bought a little hand plasma and cut everything by hand, but we couldn’t keep up so we had to get the big CNC one and the sky’s the limit with that.”

The CNC requires time on the computer, mapping all the shapes that need to be cut from large sheets of steel. When it’s all set, the robot goes to work cutting the designs with a splash of water and a spray of sparks.

“There’s always a demand for this custom-made sort of stuff, but with the technology that’s now available, we can meet that demand,” says Matt.

COVID-19 barely made a dent in production as the team pivoted to sell their stock online.

“We didn’t have a website before COVID, but as soon as we all got locked down we built one and had to come back to work to ship everything out.

“So it actually made things more busy really.”

“We sell to a lot of places with the website and the shop and we’ve got a couple of big wholesalers in Melbourne, Gundagai and Canberra and South Australia.”

He says dog sculptures are the best selling product at the moment.

“We try to keep the majority of the popular breeds of dogs and then we can add names and dates and all that sort of thing to them.”

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Looking to the future, Matt hopes to invest in a bigger, better CNC and continue increasing and improving the output.

“We’ll just keep expanding our range of various products and just keep going and see where it takes us,” he says with a slow smile.

“That’s how I’ve run for the last 10 years and it seems to have worked out alright.”

You can check out the Old n Dazed creations here.

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