Kevin Nicholson has a passion for turning discarded steel into works of art
WE’RE HARD-WIRED to be mesmerized by flickering flame. We wait for darkness so we can light our candles. As soon as the weather chills we light our fireplaces. Campfires, beach parties, bonfires—all a source of the best memories. Can you think of anything more Canadian than socializing around an open fire? Human warmth is stoked by fire.
There’s a couple in Cape Breton who have built a business around the creation of memories. They make outdoor fire pits by recycling propane tanks. Kevin Nicholson says he has gone “from pit to pit,” because he worked in the DEVCO coal mine for 20 years before he started the fire pit business.
But let me back up a bit first and tell you about Kevin. He’s bright, creative, resourceful, always interested in what’s around him, and he’s fun. He’s a real Cape Bretoner! As a coal miner he took the initiative to repair some of the stuff that was being discarded as scrap, thus saving DEVCO hundreds of thousand of dollars.
He wasn’t formally trained for some of the work that he did at the mine, but he watched and learned quickly. That quickness is certainly evident when you’re talking with him—you can almost hear the wheels turn as his mind races ahead…
…Then you hear: “Just a minute now, Kevin”—the voice of the person who provides balance in his life—his wife, Noreen. Her feet are anchored to the ground. She has a good sense of when and where to show their products. She appreciates the value of the business, but insists on equal time for the other important things in their lives. Together they have created a successful enterprise that now includes their daughter, Loreen.
When the mine closed, Kevin turned to making lawn ornaments and sculptures of iron. He is particularly proud of the sailboat sculpture that graces the front entrance to the casino in Halifax.
About 14 years ago a fellow asked him if he could make a fire pit out of an old propane tank. He did. One friend told another friend about it, then two friends told two friends, and so on and so on—and A Twist of Iron evolved from a hobby to a business.
And the passion remains. Kevin seems to have the touch of an environmentalist about him—he is passionate about turning tons of steel into keepsake treasures, instead of filling up the landfills. And he is passionate about design. He might spot a moose on the road or see something on the menu at a restaurant that triggers an idea for an innovative design cutout on a fire pit.