New Work, Working title, Portal/Door
Acrylic paint, chalk pastel, graphite, archival ink brass, metallic gold on canvas paper, 12 x 16 in
V. Vulgar language is common in the trade. Imagine if you worked with fire, gas and electricity everyday. One theory is those who work with tough materials become like their materials, hard, rough and raucous, similar to the tools they use that produce ear splitting sounds. Another theory is when working hard with tools and unforgiving materials you have a license to curse and swear. The culture is rife with its own language and sayings.
W. Like a warrior or soldier a welder feels like they are in a trench fighting off the enemy. In this case the tools become friend and foe, they accomplish the job or if not used wisely injure or worse extinguish you. Part of the thrill of welding is the immediate pleasure experiencing the art form created by the dangerous ‘weapons’ you tangle with. It is a curious combination of art and function that satisfies the maker.
X. Xenon is the chemical element of atomic number 54, a member of the noble gas series. It is obtained by distillation of liquid air and is used in some specialized electric lamps.
Y. Yesterday was then, I am in now. I have focused my passion and interest on welding for the last seven years. I have learned and discovered many important lessons about the medium of steel, about how to work as a tradesperson. Most importantly, I have familiarized myself with the limits and boundaries of my abilities.
Z. Be zealous in pursuing the kind of work that fits with your values. There is no ideal job, no perfect situation. In work, make sure there is something about the place, the organization, the group that resinates with you, otherwise misery is sure to follow an early excitement of getting a job as a welder, or whatever it is you do to make a living.
S. Find the still point or the part in your work that engages your mind. When this happens your brain will make connections with little effort.
T. Tomorrow will be better. Days turn into long weeks and to may think what ever tomorrow holds, it is anything but better. I liken this to the feeling of pulling an old farming plow. Shoulders are pulled down to the ground as if heavy weights were attached to wrists. The amount of work it takes to arrive at better is surely in tomorrow’s tomorrow. A season or two will pass light and levity will reappear.
U. Understand it takes time. This comes with watching season after season, the pattern of life one’s life. To notice how one works and lives is more than helpful to usher in understanding. The world is moving fast, technology is taking us to far-flung places that only a few years ago we could not imagine. It takes time to learn a life skill, time to learn how to weld well.
P. I have a desire to take pictures of pipes. Yes, it has happened to me on occasions more often than not. Truthfully my love of industrial materials and artifacts is morphing into something quite spectacular. I actually think about making paintings of ugly buildings that emit unfriendly plumes of who knows what. I think about a metropolis, a kind of Babylon if you will and wonder when building and fabricating will finish. When I look at the development in the City of Richmond and +50,000 population increase by 2020, I’m guessing there will be plenty of work for pipe fitters and welders.
Q. You will know when the time is ripe to quit smoking. You will get to really hating it. until you hate it more than you love it, you won’t quit. Each day has enough of its own metal odours and scents which fill you up. Think about it, when you go out there to puff, all you are doing is taking a few long drawn deep breaths, the ones you don’t take when welding. Instead of going for a nico-smoke break why not get an electronic cigarette or one that lights up on the end when you inhale. Upon exhaling be sure to think about that perfect stop and start you will perform on your next test. At home during the day dependent on your work schedule, lie down on your back and inhale through your nose and exhale through slightly parted lips, regulate your breathing to help you relax.
R. Calling oneself out of solitude is sometimes work in itself. The first movement and transition out of a period of being alone or isolated for a length of time can be painful. There is a mental adjustment that must be made, remind yourself not to over think the how-to steps. It is simply about moving for the sake of moving so that your body is being activated. Once you are in action and movement you have a place to go to, even if very slow at the beginning. Place yourself in amongst people who are glad to see you and remember to look for goodness in the faces of people.
In a strawberry field rows upon rows blur and time flies away with the breeze, I paint the day a message of sweetness to the blessed blue and invisible letters rise softly
In between brush strokes a vintner and I eat unbearably ripened blood red fruit, South Fraser Shores spill a bounty to behold and each family draws nigh into the country
To gather Farmer Bob Featherstone’s berry he being seventy one years strong no less, next season calls to him before this season’s ripened fruit wets my mouth until I want more
The fragile faith of a farmer’s folly tests our resolve to carry forward a future for farming, next year at this time will we all be here prepping signs and sheds for the public
To steal the berries away is so light and easy to grow the berries to steal is so very hard, how do you thank a farmer for what he does who he is to the end and what he provides you, counting the devoted stars above may be easier than remembering to say thank you for his labour
I do declare this farming ain’t for the weak and weary
It is for the strong and steady ones who sleep outside
I don’t know who will take your place oh farmer I do not see one who comes after you or even before, spin me a dream that I might not forget to cultivate the earth and stand by her always I am afraid of the drought that lies in my heart the dryness that besets me before early dawn
Transformation is the means to my liberation like the caterpillar turned butterfly again, through and through and today I ask Into tomorrow will you tell me the honest truth
Examine my conscious search my heart for tell signs of being true to the land and my family
I will go back to the land stumble upon her beauty remembering your love oh farmer for her will be my salvation. If I do not remember, recall and reflect upon my livelihood I will surely be erased and gone from these South Fraser Shores
Tell me who to trust, where and how do I go about transformation from transnational global economics to local, sustainable and community grown gemstones that provide for my lifeblood right here in the neighbourhood
I am simple and do not understand these complexities I just want to dig in the dirt and grow fruit and vegetables for a people around me
I wandered all night with the light of the River looking for the child of the fraser this land named ‘Richmond’ broke indeed at the close of the day
I searched for a song the very words would not reach my dry lips my thirst long parched from many days of longing for hope in the air
Was it the sunset that vanquished my anxious thoughts or had I taken a sip of an elixir that calmed my frightful tired mind
I could not tell in that moment since I was lost on the south fraser shores calling to
the child of the fraser this fair ‘Richmond’
Poor land I am alone sorrowful in my demise
I hear the sound of drilling concrete
shards splinter into the wind
carrying them to local blueberry fields
This night I am in my right mind
listening to the sound of the rain above
watching rivulets of water beneath me
I am in a trench a ditch on my homeland
beneath my skin is the memory of yesterday
when the leaves fell I watched them turn
I want nothing more than to remember
the scent of decomposition on my land
on my neighbour’s ground where sun shines
This night I am fast in my sleep waking
to the sound of a breakfast delivered
by kind souls who care for me for a while
What was I thinking when I spoke out loud
not knowing what was before me
I receive everyday with the gladness I possess
I am in a festooned fenced in fort
beneath my skin is the memory of yesterday
when the leaves fell I watched them turn
I listen for the sound of drilling concrete
shards splinter into the wind
carrying them to local cranberry fields
Off in the distance is the anguished cry
of an enraged child not unlike me
who for the first time discovers injustice
This night I am in my right mind
listening to the sound of rain above
watching rivulets of water beneath me
I saw the metal in the field
Where I had only known sweet grass before
My toes began to bleed as if weeping into the land
Would cure this curse I stumbled upon
Down to my knee in a marsh bog I was
There I cried long for a clay floor
To catch me even as it shifted beneath
Once before when a small while ago
I lamented the loss of farmland
It is to my son and daughter I whisper
Take my hand and let me go away from
This night dream that stalks me by day
I want to know if you are listening
Out the door and back with take out cups
To sit at a kitchen party in Finn Slough
There is talk of an evolving re-volition
Local misfits and maverick denizens trace
An outline of a new enterprise to feed
Forgotten people who roam the outskirts
In a wealthy city where food is plentiful
Social schemes take shape there I set up
A stand with vegetables and flowers offering
True bread to those who would come to take
Seeds to spread over a cursed ground
M. The reason I write all this down is for your benefit and also for mine! You see, the act of writing and remembering is helping me right now assimilate the bits and pieces that I have learned from each person that I have come in contact with. Be it instructor, student, professional welder or inspector. Learn to practice the tips and tricks of acting like a sponge, even at your late age, you can still do it. Maintain curiosity and don’t get jaded by cynicism along the way, and you will remain alive to your purpose: to put these pieces of metal together the right way for structural advantages.
N. Which brings us to this memorable saying. Lifelong learning, never stop it. Become a rolling stone, gather moss and pieces of this and that along the way. Make it part of yourself to be the best you can be in the trade of what you do to make a living. You will see that your interests and hobbies will be related to your work, and notably you will also come to understand, if you take time, that people become like the materials they work with for good or for bad.
O. Open and close the valve to take the risk. It has been three months now since I welded for real. I know that trepidation easily sets in being away from the arc and the torch for me. What I mean is that when you are welding all the time, everyday you build up a stamina, a kind of shield around yourself. A resilience if you will to the sights and sounds that you are working with. Like a performer who is getting ready to go on stage, you hone your skill to lay down the metal as best you can in that moment. Every breath you take translates into the form of that weld. You can see right away if you are relaxed, in the zone, or completely out of practice and dull.
To get to the crux of the matter, or to the heart and essence of a thing requires ongoing exertion, which is the application of force and influence.
Make no mistake about it your character will show its true colours in a situation where you are pressed between a rock and a hard place. It is there that your spirit will learn to dig deep. In the process of the dig you will go through layers and layers of loam, a fertile soil containing humus. Anxiety will rise since uncertainty is prevalent. Many times you will not know how to continue the dig. You will have already scoured your known inner resources.
Yet, it will not be there where you find the resolution to go on. Comradie in souls who have lived through many seasons of digging deep will resound about you and in a funny twist of fate or is it a pre-conconceived plan—then and there your vitality will be new-born for the task at hand, you are witness to the beautiful moment of seeing how everything is connected.
What secret resounds and calls silently in this process is the same as loam, at once it is fertile and alive, mysteriously organic in its power to grow and shape you.
J. Just wait and see you will recover. When you thought it could not get any worse, it is then and there that you find yourself at the bottom. The bottom of the day, the bottom of your learning curve at the bottom of the barrel so to speak. Just wait and see you will recover, to your surprise you will bounce back into tomorrow to start all over again the practice of practice, 1000×1000 and then some
K. Keep at it and find arc time. Said a friendly CWB person. In other words: Don’t worry be happy and find arc time, even if you have to do it for free. In between the intensity of being a full time student and a full time welder is the lag. The waiting for a contract, a job, a place to do the work. Don’t be discouraged, things could be a lot worse, you could have a job that doesn’t put you in harm’s way everyday, how boring would that be?
L. Learn to really like what you do. It follows that learning to really like what you do is in order! Believe it or not you can over time glean the discipline it takes to work hard while engaging your mind and body to accomplish a task that is part of something really important. Make no mistake about it though, just like they say or somebody said to you along the way, it requires commitment and passion. If you haven’t got it, either ask for it or get out of the trade in order to find your happiness and fulfillment elsewhere.
It is all the same to me
I am in the background watching the pour
Fire refines and casts a shape
It cannot be easily changed
Thy dangerous flame I miss
Thy heat is long felt and broken upon my skin
My only hope is that one day
Thy fire, water, earth will mix with wind
To produce my felt desire to be with you
Then the same will be different
I will have long left this tent
To come home to my kin
In my Father’s House
G. If it were not for the human touch, joins would not occur. It is the human who makes it happen, depositing beads into corners loading up fillets, grooves and the like. Stop starts, near misses and tracking the molten line recreates the ‘seam’ time and again. A join holds together in the form of a, lap, butt, tee, and if there is variety perhaps all three.
H. Humans unlike robots are imperfect. Robots are programmed to operate by remote performing data on a sheet provided. Humans operate by free will.
I. I like ‘burning rod’. Go—‘turn um and burn um’ or ‘grip it and rip it’, are favorite sayings for welders. In the middle of a hot summer afternoon sitting in a classroom watching demo videos doesn’t cut it. Nothing can replace being in the shop for a tradesperson. It is the doing that keeps us going, the working with our hands that makes us happy, even when we are having a miserable day. At the end of it we can look and see what we have made and done and have a sense of satisfaction.
D. Its riveting to watch the molten puddle. In the zone that’s all that matters. The ‘diamond’ shape at the leading edge of the puddle, Marilyn Lanz says, the movement thereof, how it is coming together and travelling. I like that some call it ‘the zen or flow moment’, when you lose track of time or when all seems one and you are moving, there beautiful the moments happen and you are a part of it for a short time.
E. At the beginning there is a crackling sound that happens. It stays through the making of the bead, if you hear a hissing sound, then its not quite right. The crackling is what you want, it lets you know you are making it real. I see a little at a time, the tie-in happening. Letting go of the under cut is somewhat like watching out for the undertow. It is the direction you do not want to go in. Erika painstakingly makes her own course and the last thing she wants is under cut like going out for a swim she wants to avoid getting caught in that under current.
F. Everything is about the heat meeting the metal. All the assembling, the sounds of grinding, banging, and knocking in the isolation of the booth, the ringing of the echo throughout the shop is strange, some describe it as ‘unnatural’. It is learned, every small step. Tack this together, and fill this up again and again until you get this perfect overlap. Then place it in the ‘heartbreaker’ to see if all your hard work is real.
A. And, It is in this order: Una: Safety, Dous: Set up, Tres: Comfort. I don’t care what the heck you have to do to remember. ‘I don’t give a damn where and what you have learned before I want it ingrained he said’. Etched into your minds, every day in the way that it is best for you. Best not to sit down and weld, stand and take frequent breaks. Support yourself at three points of contact so you don’t wear yourself out.
B. The metal burns. All day long I sit in my booth burning electrodes and continuous wire, the conductors for electrical power. I learn to wield the weld by employing hard work, patience and respect. Here, where I learn, it is private, yet it is union and we the public, men and women, learn the codes and standards of the day for structural welding.
C. I cried when I first learned to burn up the rod. In the booth it’s private, I focus on the task at hand. Some cannot stand the solitude, yet I don’t mind it at all. I work hard to get the angle and the heat right to meet into a beautiful bead yet many times it is beyond my grasp to get it just right. A certain exquisite strength is married to the metal. The mental workout is tremendous when equanimity is tested to its outer limit for practice is the only way.
At UAPICBC, structural welding is the emphasis in Level ‘C’ specifically, the program prepares the student for the CWB [Canadian Welding Bureau] tests. My booth is first #8 then #36, there are 32 booths set up with state of the art equipment to enable the student and would be apprentice to achieve an exciting goal within the trade, a beginning certification in structural welding.
At the end of one day I am sweeping the floor in the shop thinking about the formation of my bead. I decide I don’t like it. I feel it is wide, unbalanced and far too hurried looking. I express these thoughts to my Instructor, who says,
“Now you know what to work on, the areas that are a problem, that’s good!”
I agree, feeling quite annoyed with myself, I thought to achieve a fine looking bead will likely take three to five years of practice. Once again I am reminded that in order to do something well, one must concentrate and make a commitment to engage with dedication to practice a skill or craft in order to do it with verve.
Ah well, said HMV, “We make our way as we go, we find out what works and then one day we are doing what we have wanted to do, not realizing that it took us a time to get to where we are. Make a sacrifice to concentrate do not run from problems.”
[HMV stands for Her Masters Voice and is one of the main characters in A Liger’s Tale]
The last leg is before me, I have to finish the Mig family and get on with the Flux family next. I only have about 21 days in the shop left to complete eight practice plates and seven bends.
I am hoping for a miracle or good fortune to work with me as I poise myself to run the race before me and finish well! I’ll tell you a secret, I have waited about 25 years to go back to school and finish a program.
When my kids grow up and they tell someone some stories about me that will say:
“Yeah, my Mum went back to school, not to University to complete a degree but to Trade school to become a welder!”
Anyways wish me luck and send me all the positivity you can muster and I will be eternally grateful. I am already very happy that I have a wonderful Instructor, Bernard Booth and Mentor, Jim Haggerty of Action Welding. Ricardo Riviera at UAPICBC, my first Instructor taught me the SSC, Safety, Setup, Comfort. I am pleased to know two excellent women welders along the way, who are my role models; Marilyn Lanz, who has been welding for 30 years and Jackie Lundman who taught me for a week during POW in summer 2010.
I happily made these first lessons into a rap song for Rico and our class one day on my way to school when I was taking the bus …. yeah I had too much time on my hands and was needing to amuse myself so I focused on the fact that I have always wanted to write a rap song. It seemed that the moment had arrived, and while sitting on the bus that day it all came together.