Two brothers had dramatic career changes and moved home to continue the family blacksmith trade – by creating 3D metal signs and pieces of art
Luke Markey had a high-flying job as a forensic accountant consulting for top companies around the world while brother, Neil, completed three tours of duty with the U.S. Army in Iraq and Afghanistan
But both Luke and Neil eventually realised their destiny was to work with their father Peter, a modern-day blacksmith who helped build the gates at the Statue of Liberty.
The three men now make large 3D metal signs for top brands and organizations – including the University of Maryland – and complex metal works of art from their forgery in Frederick, Maryland.
Luke said it took a while to learn the trade – but that the businesses have become unstoppable with both his brother and father on board.
He said: ‘In the beginning I spent a lot of time on the forge, just swinging the hammer. ‘It felt great. I remember one Friday night asking my dad to teach me some things, and there we were from 7pm until 11pm working side by side.’
Luke and Neil’s success story stretches back almost five generations. Their great-great-great-great uncle was known for his handcrafted intricate iron work and by the end of his life he had made three stoves each worth the value of a home. While their great-great-great- grandmother’s hand-woven quilts are still on display today in the Daughters of the American Revolution museum in Sussex, New Jersey.
Neil also felt that continuing the family tradition was his calling in life.
He studied mathematics at the University of Maryland then joined the Army in 2003 after the invasion of Iraq.
Neil led an Infantry platoon from the Fourth Infantry Division and deployed to Iraq in 2008.
He was later assigned to the US Army Special Operations Command, with the Second Ranger Battalion, and completed two more tours to Afghanistan.
But after leaving the Army Neil also moved to the East Coast to complete an MBA at Columbia University.
Outside school he travelled home often and the brothers experimented together with their father.
They developed a unique method of turning simple two-dimensional logos and images into three dimensions using metal as their medium.
Their first prototype was of the Baltimore Oriole, which weighed nearly 20 pounds with ugly jagged lines and assembly.
The piece also inspired the name ‘shield’ which Luke and Neil decided would be the name for their company.
They now keep the piece on the wall of their workshop to show how far the company has developed.
Their first finished metal signage pieces were for the Rangers, a 3D representation of the Ranger scroll.
The scroll is worn on the right sleeve only by members of the elite unit who have completed a deployment.
Neil said: ‘The scrolls were great practice for us and we donated the profits back to the Pointe du Hoc Foundation.’
After refining their metal crafting success, orders began to increase.
They recently released a beautiful, brushed stainless steel, three-dimensional version of the beloved Frederick skyline.
They drew the inspiration from a similar piece of art created by their father and uncle Richard years ago.
Next, after receiving NCAA licensing approval in July 2014, they created a beautiful piece for the University of Maryland; a representation of the beloved ‘Terrapin’, the school’s mascot.
It also serves as tribute to their great-great grandfather, D. John Markey, a World War Two veteran and the first head football coach for the University of Maryland, originally named Maryland Agricultural College, in 1902.
Later, they worked with the University of Maryland ROTC program to design a custom 3D signage piece for their new facilities.
The brothers also create custom pieces and have made high-quality versions of business logos for display in offices and entrances.
They sold their first piece to the Director of the Lang Entrepreneurship Center at Columbia Business School. It is proudly displayed at the entrance of his energy consultancy firm in New York City.
They have worked with major organizations like the National Association of Relators – turning their 2D logo into a 3D piece of art.
ShieldCo is now focusing their efforts on custom signage design for businesses and organizations. They are currently working on a design for Ferrari – for the company and its fans.
Neil said: ‘Every detail was carefully thought through. The design is laser cut to a precision of 1/1000 of an inch. Exposed bolts on the piece give it a feeling of toughness and match the lug nuts on a Ferrari wheel.’
The company also supports the Pointe du Hoc Foundation, which Neil helped form in 2010 while serving with the Rangers.
The Foundation recently completed a beautiful memorial this year in Washington State; a tribute to all the Rangers killed in action. Neil drew the initial design by hand.