Keith Wyman and I talk a lot about a specific moment. For some it’s a lightning bolt. For some it’s a culmination of experience and perspective. For many, it never happens. But Keith and I agree it’s the single most important moment in a person’s professional life.
The moment they realize what their lifelong passion is.
For Keith, it was allowing his creative prowess to flourish into an extremely distinctive contribution to the furniture world. He created Concrete Pig, his one-man-band operation that brings unique and functional sculptural elements to modern furniture design. By melding metalwork, untampered wood and concrete, he’s created a copious amount of pieces that have since become integral features in homes, breweries, music festivals and countless other places.
The work is intrinsically beautiful and because of the brilliance of his craft, the translation of his mind’s most marvelous creations formed, welded, poured and shaped into into a new genre of modern furniture. Passion hit him like a lightning bolt.
And yet it might have never happened.
Following college and being a bit adrift of what he really wanted to do, Keith took a corporate job with what he’ll describe as “not even a real résumé” and started his path towards financial security. But it wasn’t the life for him.
“I’m still a fairly introverted guy but it’s funny how self-confidence and self-purpose go hand in hand. I didn’t have any purpose or any path or vision for myself there. I was just completely lost. I think I had a couple of mid-life crises at the company within a decade, which I think is fairly impressive,” he says with a hint of laughter.
“That’s a badge of honor,” I say in response and more laughter follows. “It really is!” I continue, “It’s only not one if you stayed there and continued to lack purpose,” and Keith nods in agreement.
It’s the conversation we’ve had countless times. That there’s a razor thin edge when it comes to deciding your future the moment your lifelong passion presents itself.
Keith knew that creativity was the fuel that the dim fire in his soul needed to bring it ablaze—and did the extremely difficult thing of leaving financial security in the corporate world to venturing out on his own with Concrete Pig.
That was five years ago, and to this day, he’ll attribute what’s happened in his life more to luck than anything else. But if you talk with him long enough, you’ll see how much of his luck is built off the backbone of hard work.
Just navigating his one room workshop, there are at least eight projects taking place at any one moment. Most of the time there is overflow outside of the shop itself with rebar-sculptures, waiting to receive concrete or wood additions.
Creatively, Keith has so much going on because the best way for him to express the ideas in his head is to simply start building it. “Sometimes I’ll be up at night. I can’t turn it off. I’ll be thinking in 3D forms and lines and when they come together. I’ll have an idea and I won’t write it on paper, I’ll just run to the shop and start forming steel and putting it together. Half the time it will pan out. Sometimes it’s shit. Or sometimes I’ll put it to paper and then you put everything in scale and it’ll look really pretty, but when you make it come to life it looks like shit. It’s hard to describe.”
To constantly move forward is the most important part to Keith. “Leaning forward” is one his favorite phrases because if you’re stagnating and not creating, you’re not reaching your full potential. Always in the back of Keith’s mind is the pursuit of perfection, and while he admits it’s still eluding him, it’s this extremely high standard that sets his work apart and inspires an emotion in those who experience it.
“I think finding really important work and doing great work, so long as it is positive and forward leaning, is the best thing you can do.”
And that’s what Concrete Pig is to Keith. When he realized that he was lacking purpose in the corporate world, he packed up his things and left to start creating for the greater good. Lucky or not, it’s evident how thankful he is that when his passion hit him like a lightning bolt, he answered the call.
Recently we were sitting in Able Seedhouse + Brewery in NE Minneapolis just to catch up and he couldn’t help but beam about his son. “I finally convinced him to take his first piano lesson last weekend and he was so excited,” he said. “So we bought him a keyboard and for the last four days straight, it’s all he’s been playing. Lately, I’m watching him put on a 15 minute concert for my wife and I and he’ll honestly almost lose his mind in the best way possible. The way I feel at work where I lose my mind and you just completely lose who you are. He’ll be playing and he’ll hit this ringing synth and he’ll just have this pleasing look on his face. At one point he said while playing, ‘I almost want to happy cry.’ But I’m thinking, that’s amazing. Whatever I can do to encourage him to get that feeling and to help him do things where he’s in that totally blissful state of mind I want to do and I think that everyone’s gotta find that.”
Every time I give Keith a firm handshake and say goodbye, I feel enlightened. Not only is his work inspiring, but his attitude towards doing what he loves is infectious. It’s timeless. It’s important. Every unique piece that comes out of Concrete Pig can last for generations, but I’m convinced it’s not only the material that makes it that way.
-Words by Colby Wegter