Metal artist welds his life back together

Garage Bound owner Michael Brandt, middle, stands in his studio with two of the local teens he mentors, Ethan Cavanaugh, left, and Austin Waldo. (Staff photo by Myron Madden)

When Michael Brandt was arrested for drug trafficking in 2002, he decided to use his five-year sentence in federal prison to whittle away the parts of himself he didn't like, and change his life for the better.

Today, Brandt is an accomplished welding artist, respected mentor and the owner of custom fabrication and mobile welding studio Garage Bound LLC, which recently celebrated one year at its newly acquired East Chattanooga location. Though it didn't come easy, he says.

Brandt's journey began in the U.S Penitentiary in Atwater, Calif., where he transformed his anger into something beautiful by channeling it into the arts. From behind bars, the 20-year-old began to write poetry and songs about how he felt his life was moving on without him due to his mistakes.

"[It helped me] come to terms with the fact that I was exactly where I was supposed to be and I was there because of the things I'd done.