SteelWood Arts fosters love of nature - Republic-Times | News

SteelWood Arts fosters love of nature

By on November 29, 2017 at 1:54 pm

Emily Bade and Robert Asselmeier run SteelWood Arts out of their garage in Valmeyer. (Sean McGowan photo)

A new woodworking business run out of a home in Valmeyer touts much more than solid craftsmanship and a variety of products.

Emily Bade and Robert Asselmeier also believe in environmental stewardship, including that they only use wood from fallen trees. Bade added that they choose trees that are not part of an animal’s habitat.

“SteelWood Arts seeks to foster an appreciation of nature through art,” the company’s website states. “We seek to reveal a tree’s story by liberating the spirit of the wood grain through an original design by (Asselmeier). Since every tree is unique, each piece is original artwork and will never be reproduced.”

Asselmeier’s works include bowls, shelves, tables, plates, benches and more using mostly wood but some metal. Bade uses her degree in biology to search for the right kind of wood. Additionally, Bade grew up hiking through the bluffs.

“When we started out we had an exotic collection from his dad,” she said. “And then once that ran out, we started getting a lot more local wood and that’s the direction we’ve gone. 

“It’s just part of the fun. You never know what you’re going to get or what it will look like.”

Asselmeier grew up restoring furniture and went to the Art Institute of Chicago to study Art and Technology.

“I’ve always had an interest in art, but then I realized that all the art I’ve done in the last 10 years is on a hard drive,” he said. “I had nothing tactile.”

His creations with the new company are the exact opposite as Asselmeier said he designs his products with the sense of touch in mind.

“We encourage people to feel the things that we make because they’re very smooth and pleasing to the senses,” Bade said.

One of the works of art that Asselmeier is most proud of is a bowl made of Lignum vitae wood from South America. According to Asselmeier, the wood is one of the heaviest and hardest in the world. Lignum vitae is now considered endangered.

“We want to use art as a springboard for education,” he added.

Starting out, Bade said they have had some success selling different products at art shows where they display their work. She said people in the community have also been giving their support for the business.

“Our neighbors across the street drove out to one of the art shows we were showing at that was an hour away and bought one of our bowls. That was really cool,” Bade said. “I think people really like it. It’s different. It’s a piece of Monroe County.”

SteelWood Arts opened earlier this year. For more information or to purchase a SteelWood Arts creation, visit, call 618-713-0819, or email

Sean McGowan

Sean is a die-hard Cubs fan, despite the relentless peer pressure coming from the rest of the Republic-Times staff. He and his wife, Jacqui, have been married for two years. Originally from the west suburbs of Chicago, Sean and his wife moved down to Normal to attend Illinois State University and stayed central Illinois residents for the past four years.