St’artUp 317 is a competitive program that aims to match young brands, established businesses wanting to test a new market, startups and artists, with vacant and under-utilized first floor commercial space in downtown neighborhoods to create pop-up stores. Inspired by similar initiatives across the country St’artUp 317 is being coordinated by Downtown Indy, Inc in partnership with PATTERN in order to incubate viable retail businesses and long-term tenants, while supporting the creative class and improving the cultural profile of our city. The long-term goal of the program is to eliminate empty storefronts, increase local and visitor consumer spending and ensure that the Downtown neighborhoods continue thriving.
This series of stories highlights artists, entrepreneurs and businesses that were selected to participate in the pilot of St’ArtUp 317.
Written by Adeline Border, DII Communications Intern, Downtown Indy, Inc.
Local wood sculptor, Stephen Scharbrough, helps people turn their dreams into reality one slab at a time. Scharbrough is the creator behind IronSlab and the customers are his partners.
“I know that a lot of people have ideas in their head and I love to foster that and their creativity. I feel like there is great room for collaboration and that is a recent development with art. People want to be part of the process,” Scharbrough said.
While Scharbrough is now able to provide people with the ability to incorporate personal materials into their homes, wood sculpting was not something he imagined himself doing professionally.
“It kind of started off as a hobby out of curiosity and a need for furniture out of college. Then my family and my wife started to encourage me to market the things that I was making because they saw the positive qualities that my designs had,” Scharbrough said.
This one-of-a-kind artist has a passion for mid-century furniture and streamlined designs, but he didn’t learn his trade like most designers. His style was fostered in a personal way that allows him to stand out from other designers.
“I am self-taught, so I don’t follow a lot of traditional design rules. There are a lot of techniques that I learned to follow. I’ll talk to traditional woodworkers and ask them how I can use a technique to make my work a higher quality,” Scharbrough said.
The fact that Scharbrough was self-taught does not imply that he had no support. He was raised in a family that followed their dreams and wanted him to do the same.
“My parents were musicians and my family always taught me that life is too short to do something that you don’t enjoy. There are ways to make it work if you do the work,” Scharbrough said.
Scharbrough acknowledges a large growth in his work over the past few years, just like Indianapolis. The two are constantly improving and inspiring others. Being in the city to create and showcase his St’Art Up 317 display is a good reminder of Indy’s atmosphere.
“When I was setting up the space I fell in love with downtown again. It has a great energy to it,” he said.
Scharbrough wants people to be as involved in the process of sculpting as they want to be. His love of the local community and its people has inspired him to create things he would have never imagined. One of his clients even came to him with a large oak door from her father’s old business building.
“She came to me wanting to make something out of it because it meant a lot to her family. We had a few conversations and we decided to make it a hanging outdoor futon for her back patio. It is pretty cool. I was jealous to part with it,” Scharbrough said.
This collaboration with Indy locals is what allows Stephen to immerse himself in his art. Thanks to his customers, Scharbrough is able to share his joy of sculpting with his community.
“While I have a style, I leave a lot of room open to the client and what they want. When we talk, we talk about what they want and what I can create for them. That is a big part of why I started.”
You can see Scharbrough’s work at the Former Carson’s windows on Meridian and Washington street open house.