Prime Numbers

A woman stands inside a workshop while operating a machine.
Lucia Bennett fabricates her next design

Tony Valainis

Lucia Bennett has serious graphic design chops and knows her way around an industrial water-jet cutter. She relies on both to transform heavy sheets of steel and other metals into custom mailboxes, house number signs, and wall pieces. The result? An intriguing mix of contemporary and mid-century, complete with swooping cut-outs and eye-popping color combinations.

Bennett earned a fine-arts degree from Indiana University in 1992, but it wasn’t until a friend who had started a custom fabrication business needed some help that she found her calling. Water jets cut materials via a high-pressure stream of liquid mixed with fine abrasives. “Initially, it was nothing remotely interesting to me as an artist,” she says. “But I quickly figured out how to use the machine to incorporate art into metal.”

By 2010, Bennett launched Moda Industria—loosely translating to “the industry of style.” What started with a few metal signs and mailboxes for friends grew into a full-fledged business. She now ships her custom pieces worldwide. House numbers take about two weeks to finish and cost $150 and up. Mailboxes require roughly four weeks and start at $300. Finishing large art pieces can take a month or two. Those average $250 to $300, depending on size and number of panels.

A sharp light blue mailbox.
Example of a mod mailbox designed by Moda Industria

Starting from hand-drawn sketches, Bennett uses Adobe Illustrator to convert her drawings into water-jet-readable files. “If it’s a really crazy design—which some of them are—it can take a long time to clean up and make it readable,” she says. Once the material is cut, it’s finished as brushed aluminum, powder-coated color, or rusted steel. The shipped product often looks like fine art, but is made for the masses—Bennett isn’t even sure where much of it ends up.

“I do some address-number signs for homeowners, but I do whole apartment complexes as well,” she says. “Because I also deal with art dealers, stuff ends up in places where I have no clue.”

Mission-style mailbox (12” x 11” x 19”) featuring a four-character number plaque. $419.