Nicholas Volpe and Nickalaus Gilson are the two creative and talented men behind Temper and Grit, a design and build shop whose work you are quite likely familiar with. Over the last several years, they have been installing unique custom metal and woodworking projects at locations throughout the region. The spectacular hearth and custom tray racks at Superior Motors? That’s them. That beautiful sculpture you see while enjoying savory pizza at Dianoias? Theirs. Those gorgeous cash wrap counters at Annex and Mayfly Market? You got it, Temper and Grit.
Now, they are branching out and developing a line of products that you can purchase for your own home.
For Volpe, bringing these items to fruition is more than just work. It’s the culmination of his life’s experiences. What drives his creativity is the exhilaration that comes from solving problems in a unique way.
Volpe grew up in Eastern Pennsylvania on a 3,000-acre tree farm. There he learned a variety of skills very early on including patching red shale roads, replacing bridge boards, and welding broken plows. This is where he learned the basics of metal and woodworking. At the same time, he was developing a love of art which fully blossomed as he studied sculpture at IUP, where he earned his BFA.
Following college, Volpe experimented with a wide variety of jobs including graphic design work in Austin, working for a fracking company in Pennsylvania, blacksmithing in Pittsburgh, and then doing creative tech work for a local firm, where he met Gilson.
Volpe eventually began doing custom cabinetry and metal work for an individual remodeling a South Side home. “The homeowner was interested in a rustbelt aesthetic, things that look raw and have gritty, grungy edges.” So Volpe would draw samples of cabinets and hardware until something struck with him and the owner.
Volpe realized that he was developing talents and skills that relied upon his whole body of life and work experiences. “Even jobs that I didn’t like, helped me to become a better designer and solve problems,” he says. “I learned to extrapolate different aspects from the jobs I held. For example, mechanical fastenings used on fracking jobs helped me to design metal connectors for a variety of current projects.”
During this time, while the two Nicks were continuing to hone their fabrication and design skills on extraordinary custom pieces, they connected with Monmade. This introduced them to a series of other local producers, who soon became collaborators, including Braddock Tile, Bones and All, and Urban Tree.
The duo was also selected by Monmade to participate in the International Future Living Institute to work through their Declare process, a transparency platform and product database that encourages the use of responsible, sustainable products. Temper and Grit ultimately designed a planter box and an end table that utilize all red-list free products in their construction.
According to Volpe, “this all goes back to being a good steward of the resources we have.”
Temper and Grit’s shelves and pendant lights can currently be found at PG&H, one of Downtown’s newest retail location. PG&H has joined a growing number of Downtown retailers focused on locally produced items, including, Moop, love Pittsburgh and Steel City, among others.
What is unique about PG&H is the sole focus on locally produced home goods. Not only a retail outpost, PG&H serves as an inspiration showroom inviting architects, designers, restauranteurs, and others to consider how to integrate locally made, high quality, beautiful products into their projects.
The space at 536 Smithfield Street below Mellon Square serves to reinvigorate a well-traveled corridor with a showroom unlike any other. In addition to home goods by Temper and Grit and more than 40 other local producers, PG&H is also home to the second location of Oakland’s much loved Redhawk Coffee, another great locally-produced product.