Build: By John Malecki

John is The Builder because that is what John is good at.

He is good at building things, so his business cards say The Builder. 

Prior to opening Studio AM both of us were teammates on the same football team where he actually blocked for me, and in a large way that is what he still does. He was one of the few people that didn’t think I was crazy when I told him my vision for Studio AM; he simply got on board, and began to do what he does best. From the beginning he helped me build a dream, and he still is.

I have the privilege of working with my best friends everyday, and the thing that is special about the way we work is how we are constantly challenging each other to get better, not only at our respective craft but as individuals. It has been amazing to watch John work tirelessly at his craft and become one of the premier woodworkers in the city of Pittsburgh. 

I encourage everyone who I work with to write because I have come to learn that it is a great tool for an individual to learn retrospectively. As things progress you will get familiar with the Studio AM team through their own words. And these are the words of John.

-The Artist



Build: By John Malecki


The foundation of life for me, is an individuals desire to build. Build anything. Build a family, a legacy, or a story. Build memories and build up the people around you. These skills exist in every one of us. In every father, mother, daughter, and son. We all build every day. You may not realize what you’re building, but when you do…. That’s when you become extremely powerful.

As a young Pittsburgh Suburbanite, I became caught up in the easily swayed lifestyle associated with so many people in this wonderful town. Live and breathe sports, and do right by one another.

In a town built on steel and sweat, all I knew was work.

I applied this ethos of “dig your well before you drink from it” to what little skill I was blessed to have, and went screaming for the hills chasing a “dream”. I dreamed of being a champion, making a career and building a life based around the hard work and determination I put into it. I wore a helmet like I was a Spartan warrior, and I approached each day as if tomorrows opportunity could be ripped from my hands at any point.


Instead of building a career and financial stability, I built so much more. I built a reputation and a mindset. I learned to use these as tools to further myself as not only an athlete but as a man. The world is a grimy and hard place. It will hand you nothing and can take from you everything.

…But only if you let it.

I lead myself to believe that in losing football, I had lost everything.

As I stopped putting on my Spartan Helmet, I learned to pick up my ball cap, and simply go back to work. After almost a year of reflection, I realized I was more than just another name on a roster. I had become something greater. Something stronger. Something more resilient than any cubicle could have taught me. I had built myself into something more valuable than any number on the back of a jersey could ever give me. I had become a true teammate.

It was difficult to believe that I would be able to get away from being an ex-athlete. But one perk of being a lineman, is no one knew me anyway.

As I grew into The Builder I learned that physically building a table or piece of furniture is a skill that can be grown by working at it and studying the craft. The skills of what I learned through two decades of putting my hand in the dirt for the betterment of a team, those were completely organic, and I almost didn’t even realize I had them.

I met Baron when I became a Steeler. In our first few months together we probably spoke only a handful of times. Considering I was singularly focused on doing anything I could to make the team, I didn’t have time to pay attention to the new people around me, and neither did he.

I was on the field when Baron blew out his knee his rookie year during training camp, and looking back on it I would never have guessed how much that moment would change both of our lives.

Over the next few years we developed a relationship over bantering about TV shows in the lunchroom and playing ping-pong. But there was constant work being involved.

I respected how the kid showed up every day and literally took no shit from absolutely anyone. From the head coach all the way down to some undrafted free agent. He walked his own walk.

We became friends and a light went off. I knew this kid would be someone the world would never forget.

So as we grew older, barons hair grew a little longer, my waistline grew a bit larger. Life started catching up with us both. Baron’s body couldn’t keep up with injuries and I knew football would end some day. He had been hustling art and salsa and himself for years by growing and developing a business to skyrocket him into his life after football.

I was building something different, and I wasn’t even aware of it.

I was building the foundation to my legacy.

In life you must be able to evaluate yourself and be completely honest.

Am I a shitty person?

Am I a good son?

Am I a good teammate?

I always asked myself these types of questions while growing up, and always held myself to a higher standard.

The skills I constantly worked on became the foundation to what I would desire to be and mold myself into as I built my future. Yes I got a degree, and yes I networked while I was playing. And yes I am very aware of the unique circumstance professional sports provides once playing is done. But none of that means anything was handed to me.

After thirteen transactions on five different teams, football was over. I had to make a move; the real world was catching up fast.

It was time for the next chapter in my legacy

In this time, Baron and myself had started building furniture and making salsa together. I dabbled in a little painting as well, why the hell not. If he could do it why couldn’t I? As I strolled down the path life provides after sports I saw Baron and his “hustle” and thought, “Damn that dude is just punching life right in the face.”

We talked about it and he decided to bring me on board with Angryman Salsa.

I started handling all the purchasing and the production and we moved ahead as teammates on a different type of team now. As I was working on my role on the salsa team, Baron was conspiring for much bigger things.

In this time I was still building furniture. Simple tables and some shelving. After a few months and some good growth in the salsa business, we knew we had to get somewhere bigger to manufacture.

Baron knew the owners of the restaurant our business is located in today, and as fate may have it. They were moving.

So Baron mapped out our game plan for Studio AM and we ran ahead screaming for the hills. After grabbing some brushes and putting in a few weeks work, we had a brainchild that we sit in today. An idea that came to fruition through sweat and hard work.

As we continue to build this company I look at the people around me now, and could not be more pleased with the team we have created. I could not be more proud of the atmosphere we have constructed. I am blessed to be building something that benefits everyone around me.

Life has handed me a pile of blocks, and it has been tasked on me to take these blocks and build my legacy.

I am blessed to be able to share what I create with the world, and do it right here in my hometown.

I am The Builder, go build your legacy.


-The Builder


 Keep up with the things John is building at Studio AM follow him on twitter @John_Malecki   and be sure to check out his portfolio HERE

27 Gems (Diary 2)

Today I turned 27. Here are 27 things that I have learned since being on this planet that I live by.

  • Work is a beautiful thing. It is what progresses us through our realities and balances the universe making all things opportunity. Through work, all things can be made good, and through work a man can be aligned with his destiny.
  • Create more than you consume.
  • Difficult circumstance is the greatest blessing and greatest teacher one can ever have. Adore the difficult and embrace the challenges that life presents to you.
  • Hold onto the people that love you. Love the people that need you. But always be able to stand-alone and move forward.
  • Believe in heroes.
  • Never challenge anyone unless you have first challenged yourself.
  • Inspiration is useless without being followed by action.
  • Actions are useless unless followed by belief. Believe that you are meant for something, because you are.
  • Happiness takes work, but if it didn’t it could not exist. Don’t compare happiness, it is the one perspective that is always unique.
  • Honor your words, but always respectfully question words of others until you have decided for yourself that they are true.
  • Work to be the most competitive person you know, and then keep working.
  • Nothing great can be accomplished alone.
  • Never expect to be repaid for something that you gave for free. Do not enslave others to favors. Do good things, not favors.
  • Never pretend to know something simply to fit in, strive to know the things that allow you to stand apart.
  • If someone uses a word you have never heard simply ask what it means. It shows people you are humble enough to learn from them.
  • Go into conversations with no ego and willing to learn something and usually you will.
  • Study history, it is always what you are, but live in the present, it is always what you can be.
  • Time is irrelevant when weighed against the power of consistently good decisions.
  • Life is a game of chess being played with boards that vary in sizes. You begin to live once you realize that you have the ability to not only make moves, but  ultimately win. The game will be played regardless of if you join in.
  • The heart of a woman is precious.
  • Teach what you know, because it allows you to test what you know while learning the secrets of communication.
  • Life is best lived uncomfortably. Money is a tool, and all tools are made for work.
  • Self analyze each and every day. Never be afraid to ask yourself the hard questions that only you can answer, and always answer truthfully. Life is a constant reinvention.
  • The greatest perspective on life someone can ever have is an honest one.
  • The life of an artist should be shared.
  • Self-awareness is the first step to self-control.
  • I am work. I am happy. I am aware.  I am free.

I encourage all of you to go and find your own gems this coming year and take any others that Life gifts you with along the way. My wish is that all of you get exactly what you choose to put your work and energy towards. Thank you for all of the support and allowing me to work while I become who I am. I am grateful for all of you.  Work hard, be happy, and live free.

-The Artist

“Be encouraged that only you are you, don’t fear the things only you can do. Ideas you have are made for you, and they will blossom when you choose.”  -THE ARTIST

“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who’ll decide where to go…” – Theodor Seuss Geisel

Art is not dead (Diary 1)

It always seemed like an awesome life to get paid to be myself. I remember constantly wondering if that was possible when I was a child. From the moment that question entered my mind as a child, it was one that would constantly reoccur.

Can I live a life simply being me, and get paid for it?

I remember coming to the conclusion, “that’s what Artists get to do.”

So I decided that’s what I wanted to become as a child.

I wanted to be a famous artist.

Today I reside in Pittsburgh where I work for Studio AM which is a creative agency. The motto is “Up late, Up early,” and there are no unimportant positions.

I am a visual artist and serve as creative director. I get to work with four of my best friends each day, and they are quite the cast of characters. Because of that no day is ever the same.

It has been an awesome adventure so far.

Everyone is different but we all share the same mindset, and right now we are all living our dream jobs. Everyone was allowed to pick their own titles and then work to become them. And all of us have done that at this point.

We all are who we set out to be. We all introduce ourselves as who we want to be.

As for me, I am The Artist. That is what my business cards say, and that is how I would introduce myself if we met.

I wear my paint splattered work jeans everywhere I go, and for the past year and a half everyone who has seen me has seen me the same.

I believe the most powerful thing that someone can do to find happiness is find consistency within themselves.

And I am consistently The Artist.

It is a powerful feeling to be seen and accepted, and Pittsburgh has seen and accepted me as The Artist. Because of that I love this city deeply.

For the first time in my life I can say that I really like myself, and am proud of the man I am becoming. My life as an artist began here, so in a way my life began here because I cannot imagine living any other way.

Pittsburgh gave me the opportunity to completely start over. Everyday I feel thankful knowing that I am doing what I first chose to do when I was a child.

I have come full circle and have wound up at my beginning. I have gotten to start over as something else.

Finding my purpose was like finding my freedom, and that is why my art is signed with “free.”

My art has freed me by allowing me to be myself, and live a life that way.

Life brought me to this point, everything good and bad that I have ever experienced has brought me here.

Life drafted me to Pittsburgh so that I would pick up a paintbrush, but I had to work relentlessly to become an artist after playing football here.

Many people said that it would be impossible to be taken seriously as an artist here, and that I should try in another city. So for a year and a half, all I did was work. I learned to fall in love with working and what work can do for a man.

Work gives a man his purpose.

I slept an average of three hours a night for an entire year. I spent seven days a week working on my craft. I stayed up late working and I got up early to work. I set my goal on becoming a successful entrepreneur and artist, and worked to become that.

A year and a half ago all anyone would see me as was the ex-Pittsburgh Steeler.

“Oh hey yeah Baron Batch I remember you! Number twenty, running back from Texas for the Steelers! Yinz had that block back in training camp against James Harrison.”

Simply the ex-Steeler.

In the paper they refused to call me a local artist and entrepreneur even though I asked for only that. Even when the article was about me being a local artist and entrepreneur.

That got old really fast. But that was what gave me motivation.

I worked as hard as I did so that I could earn my name back.

Some people would be content simply being the ex-Steeler that blocked James Harrison that one time back in training camp.

But fuck that. That’s not me.

After almost two years I have finally earned my title. I had to prove myself as an artist to the city of Pittsburgh, and I’m glad it wasn’t any other way. I never would have imagined that earning my own name back would be such a task. But in typical Pittsburgh fashion, this city made me work for it. And for that I am grateful, because Pittsburgh made me a working artist.

And I dig this Artist guy.

That is what I am called, it is how I look everywhere I go, and it is how I introduce myself to everyone I meet.

This is who I am.

And I like me.

Pittsburgh has allowed me the liberty to live out both of my childhood dreams all before the age of thirty. It is where I became both of the things that I was told I couldn’t become as a child.

People frequently ask me why I chose to stay in Pittsburgh, and I simply explain that it is where I am supposed to be.

West Texas is where my life was prepared, and Pittsburgh is where my life began.

Where I came from is the door to where I am going, and I want to live this new life famously.

Most people shy away from saying that they want to be famous, and that is why they never become that.

But not me. That always was my first goal. My hearts desire was always to become a famous artist.

I want to be valuable for a skill that only I possess. I want to be remembered for being me. I want a consistent reputation that introduces me before I arrive. I want a name that is echoed before me in the things that helped make me, and a name that is echoed after me in the things I make that will stay behind when I am gone.

I want to leave my opinion in the heart of existence through my art. I want to be competitively ambitious with every idea my mind thinks.

I want to only grow and excel.

I want to have people perceive me as valuable and know that I have earned that. I want to live free. I want to know that I have value. I want to discover as much truth as possible while I am here, and share it through the things that I make. I want to know that my time mattered and that is why I make art.

And because I make art, I want fame.

I want to be seen.

I want to be heard.

I want to be collected.

I want to be remembered.

Pittsburgh my dearest, I love you because you have allowed me to bloom into what I was created to be. And because of that I am obligated to return that blessing.

Pittsburgh is changing, and art is not dead.




A Few Good Men


The goal of a good man should be to unlock himself. The admiration of a man should be found in the quality of his mind, and true competitiveness is not chasing money, it is chasing ideas.

I played in the NFL for a few years and am not ashamed to admit that I was a mediocre player the entire time. That wasn’t because I was lazy or didn’t work hard, but at the end of the day other players were simply more talented. Looking back I’m actually glad that was the case. It allowed me to escape with my soul intact.

Please understand that this post is not being written out of a jaded spirit but a fulfilled one. I am writing this because I feel like it is my responsibility to do so before another child looks at an athlete in a helmet blindly thinking, “There is my hero. I want to be like him.”

To the child looking to the NFL athlete as a hero please let me assure you that you can be so much more. To my former teammates, current friends, and other athletes, you can be so much more as well.

This is my NFL experience. These are my honest words.

“Money is meant to be wasted.”

“It’s not technically cheating because I never kissed her on the mouth. We just had sex.”

“They can’t cut me, they pay me too much.”

“I’ll show up when I want.”

“It’s not my job to be a role model, it’s my job to play well.”

Real men don’t say things like that, nor do heroes. But those are a few of the things I heard daily while not only playing in college but in the NFL as well.

At times all the madness began to sound normal to me and often even appealing, and that began to scare me. To be honest it was terrifying to see my soul changing into something that I knew was not correct, and soon I began to hate myself. I became disgusted at what I was becoming. I became condescending and arrogant, and didn’t give a shit about anyone other than myself and me keeping my job.

Deep down I knew I was a good person, but it quickly became quite obvious to me that being a good person doesn’t matter in a den of wolves, so I became a good wolf, but a wolf nonetheless.

Art helped me keep my soul intact during all of this, so it became my escape. Art became my freedom, and that is why all of my art is signed with “free”.

It saved me.

This is not me bashing the NFL either. I’m thankful for what the league taught me, and I’m thankful for the opportunity that it provided. This is me telling the truth about what many people worship on Sundays, and what many athletes strive to become. The purpose of a man is to become a good man, not an NFL player, and sadly most NFL players are not good men, or men at all.

With that being said, there are players I do admire and stay in contact with to this day and probably will the rest of my life.

They are the family men, and good husbands. They are the real heroes, but very rarely are they the superstars. Typically they are the ones who lose their jobs over a missed block or dropped pass, while players who should be on jail blocks get a free pass.

Since walking away from football I have seen first hand how hard it is to break away from the three letters “N”, “F” and, ”L”. Not because I couldn’t walk away but because it’s been hard for people who worship it to understand why someone actually would.

Simply put, I was never cut out to be an NFL player and that should have never been my goal to begin with because honestly it never was.

When I was young a teacher asked me what I wanted to be and I said that I wanted to be an artist. She looked me in the eyes and told me to pick something more realistic, so I said I wanted to be a football player.

She told me to pick something else because both were unrealistic. So I made both my goals, and I have done both.

What I have learned is that most people worship things that they shouldn’t simply because they are not chasing something that they should.

Don’t worship unless you are in the process of chasing. And once you begin to tirelessly chase, your life becomes worship.

I want to chase. I want to worship. I want to be unlocked.

In my eyes that is what heroes do, and in my eyes that is what good men do.

Take the NFL off the pedestal.

Stop worshipping it.

It is just three letters filled with a den of wolves chasing a dollar, and a few good men.


I Live For You


I am an artist that once played football, but I was an artist first.

We all were.

Art cannot be art unless it demands remembrance. Unless a thing can create a memory it is not art, but a thing. Even in the instance that a thing is remembered, the painting, the food, the song, the words, whatever it is someone makes is still not the art, but the fact that it was remembered. Without you, art is not real, and without others your art can never be born. Your art is you, but not for you.

Leave beautiful memories and you have left glorious art, and of this we are all capable, but only when we make art for others. The things made only for the artist’s pleasure will be forgotten and die when they do, and once the last memory of that person fades, then they never even existed. But immortality is being remembered, and in remembrance you can still work to inspire beyond the veil of death.

That is art. That is legacy. And that is what we all are capable of. To work so hard that even when we are gone our work still works.

People make things, but artists make art. People are able to call the things they make true, but artists have the ability to make things that are true. We all are artists, wrapped in suits of flesh that vary in size, shape, gender and color. Even the way we are assorted as a species is how a painting is created. A painting is simply various shapes, sizes, colors, and materials that together create something worthy of remembrance. A painting that only consists of one shape, size, color, and material it simply a thing, and Art is the difference.

“Human” is our species, and what we are but that is not who we are, we are more than that. We are art, and we are artists. Simply being human makes you no better than a rock. Rocks exist and so do you. But strive to be an artist that leaves art, and you are a diamond. It is not what you do, or who you are that is valuable, it is if those things are remembered.

It’s approaching a year since I’ve been away from the game of football, and I have grown more in this year than I have my entire life. I think that’s because I stopped focusing on growing my own life, and simply to grow life.

An ego is a dangerous thing when left untamed.

Football created my ego, and Art has tamed it. Football made me competitive so now I competitively work to tame my ego while learning how to do so from my art. Tame your ego and whatever you touch becomes art, because it is done for others to remember you by. The quickest way to sabotage your destiny is to pack your ego along for the journey.

Right now I’m on a jet headed to Dallas to have an art show and wouldn’t want to be any other place in the universe. But 5 years ago I would have wanted to be a pro bowl NFL player, and if you would have put both on a scale and asked me to choose one my ego would have not picked Art.

As I was flying out of Latrobe PA where I took part in three NFL training camps with the Steelers I couldn’t help but smile. It was fitting because the most glorious thing that has ever happened to me was my plan being altered in the form of an injury when I tore my ACL. It was the last play of the last practice before my first NFL game. As I was being carted off the field I made a decision instead of a plan, because there is a big difference between decisions and plans. You can make decisions to formulate a plan, but it’s a dangerous thing to start with the plan and negate decisions. My decision was to force a metamorphosis of my adversity, and allow it to become something beautiful even if I didn’t know what it would transform into at the time. Decisions make time irrelevant while plans are bound by time. Time is not meant to enslave people to their plans, but motivate and push people to make correct decisions so they don’t have to plan life out and can live it. You do not have to be bound by time if your decisions are pure. Egos make plans, but art is a decision.

As I flew over Saint Vincent I looked down over my past, present, and future. Because in one perfect magical moment when I shredded my ACL, everything I would become, became and because of that injury Art found me. When I was a kid all I wanted to be was an artist. I’m thankful art chased me down in Latrobe and tore my ACL.

So don’t praise my paintings or my words or anything else I make for that matter. Praise what adversity can do for a man. My life has been full of it, and through it I am able to leave an existence that matters. Be encouraged if your life is not normal, it means that you are equipped to never have to live a normal one. People who live normal lives typically wish for an unusual one, but if your life is already unusual do not wish for a normal life, simply strive to make pure decisions.

Love adversity, and make good decisions because that is what the staircase to forever consists of.

I look at things a lot differently now. I’ve realized that my goals were never goals but Gods. They were the pinnacles of achievement that motivated me with the idea of being able to say I ‘made’ it. Ironically now I would rather help someone else reach their destiny, because if I can do that their destiny is also mine.

Art has showed me there is no pinnacle to anything, only improvement. Competition is not the ability to become a certain thing with a title. Competition is the skill of becoming simply to become more.

Set a pinnacle and you are a slave to it. Walk the steps and you are boundless.

I want to be boundless.

So my goal is not to reach anything, my goal is to walk the steps that lead up, and that go on forever. There is no pinnacle for me. Where you die on the steps, is where you die on the steps, and it is your final say in how you lived life. Setting goals without the ability to make pure decisions is like worshipping a God that is as lazy as you are, because that’s exactly what you’ve created.

We are not meant to worship a pinnacle, we are meant to walk steps. Art taught me this.

I think the greatest responsibility an artist has is to use their time in silence to sit, think, learn and then share what they learn. Because that is art.

My paintings need me to make them, but my art needs you to remember them. Because of this I’ve learned the greatest power is serving those that will remember you. I am the product of other people’s art, and my art is you. Everything I learn I want you to know, everything I make I want you to see, and everything I become I want you to remember. My name is Baron Batch and I used to play football for your enjoyment, but I was an artist first.

Now I am boundless and my life is yours to enjoy.

I live for you.