Jay Lockett, who taught himself how to weld, creates roses out of steel or titanium at his Jayfabwerks in Waldo. In the works: a tulip design. And a New York company is in talks with national upscale retailers about carrying the pieces. John Sleezer | jsleezer@kcstar.com

A rose that lasts forever: Waldo welder turns a one-off gift into blooming business

Lockett’s first rose was made from stainless steel square metal pieces left over from custom commercial welding jobs. Now he’s also offering them in titanium. John Sleezer | jsleezer@kcstar.com
Jay Lockett made his first stainless steel rose for a girlfriend about five years ago. “I wanted to make a girl happy and thought a rose would be really cool,” said Lockett, 25. “She liked it, but sadly, she later dumped me.” John Sleezer | jsleezer@kcstar.com

For Valentine’s Day, Jay Lockett wanted to give his girlfriend a flower that would last.

From pieces of triangular stainless steel squares left over from his custom commercial welding jobs, he crafted a single artful rose.

“I wanted to make a girl happy and thought a rose would be really cool,” said the soft-spoken Lockett, 25, who owns JayFabWerks in Waldo. “She liked it, but sadly, she later dumped me.”

That was five years ago. While the relationship ended, the rose has blossomed into a side business. Friends wanted them for anniversaries and birthdays, as a special surprise or just to “get out of the doghouse,” he said.

Recently, Lockett pulled out a short stool at a pint-size desk, slipped on a welding helmet festooned with clowns (he hates clowns but got a discount) and began joining more than a dozen titanium pieces together for another rose, building up stock for last-minute Mother’s Day orders.

“I probably look like a bear on a tricycle,” said Lockett, who stands 6-foot-3 and weights 270 pounds. “It’s not practical, but it works for right now.”

His original rose design — a shiny stainless steel version now selling for $60 — is dubbed the Plain Jane. Lockett also has expanded with three more options: the Rose Gold for $70; the Powder Rose (different colors made from a powdered coating that is baked on) for $100; and the Titanium Rose for $550. He also sells $15 stands, which can be engraved for $10.

One customer used a Rose Gold this year to successfully propose on Valentine’s Day. Other customers considered them durable enough to lay at their loved ones’ graves.

Lockett also is working on a tulip design, and a New York company is in talks with national upscale retailers about carrying the pieces.

Earlier this year, he also turned to Altcap (Alternative Capital for Community Impact) to help with funding. Altcap, a nonprofit founded in 2005, supports investment in underserved and under-resourced communities throughout Kansas City.

It gave Lockett a microloan so he could purchase a Dodge 350 truck. He uses it to haul heavy pieces back to his workshop, a leased space at London Motorworks at 8207 Wornall Road.

One day he plans to purchase a more portable welder that he can take to his customers’ job sites. The loan also will help him establish credit.

“It’s not just getting a handout,” he said. “They want to know where you see yourself in the future. They want to get my story, figure out who I am as a person.”

His mother worked for the government, so Lockett lived in several states growing up: Georgia, Kentucky, New York, North Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia. One of the last stops was Overland Park, and his father and aunt live in the area. So when his mother returned to North Carolina and remarried, he made Kansas City his home.

But Mom has yet to receive a JayFabWerks rose.

“She knows this is business and so she stays on the sidelines and supports me and gives me advice,” he said. He also prefers to give his current girlfriend other gifts: road trips and dinner dates.

Lockett’s other fabrication jobs include custom car modifications and commercial projects such as restaurant equipment repair and custom pieces. A high school friend first got him interested in cars and their moving parts. Lockett then learned to weld on his own and honed his craft by working on different projects.

“People my age, they don’t want to work with their hands. They want to go to school to be doctors, lawyers and make a lot,” said Lockett. “But you want to do something you love and maybe you will make just as much or maybe more. When I’m under a car working I want to be making roses, and when I’m making roses I want to be working on a car. It keeps things spicy.”

Joyce Smith: 816-234-4692, @JoyceKC