See the workshop, know the maker.
I have been thinking for some time about re-designing the supports for my stage. The current system (which I designed) is too ponderous. It takes a long time to set up and take down and at the end of a long performing day it is the final job I have to do. Finding the energy to do it is becoming increasingly challenging. In fact I often leave it till the next day. OK sometimes but at others it is good just to put it all away and hit the road.
So I did a little research and found a local engineer who I had been told took on challenging jobs. I would rather Tegid had done it but Tegid retired a few years ago. Going into Tegid’s workshop in the pretty North Wales town of Llanrwst was going in a place where you knew the end result was going to be of a high quality. It wasn’t that the workshop was particularly tidy. In fact, like many metal workshops, there were bits of metal, tools, a layer of red rust dust on every surface. But there was an air of perfection in progress about the place and about the man. A solidity to be trusted. English was not his first language but he spoke carefully and precisely, his words lined up like two pieces of metal ready for a fine weld. So before long you knew the end result would be as reliable and exact as he was. His workshop reflected that.
The new man is very different. It was his confidence that impressed me. His workshop was huge with many vast lumbering metal working machines. Broken vintage tractors stood around awaiting their call to be renovated at some future time. A mysterious and cavernous series of barns and outhouses piled with metal and machinery of all kinds. The man has that same solidity.
I left the trailer in his yard, an anomalous art statement in all that ferrous ferocity. I was to hear from him. I didn’t. Weeks went by and only eventually after several phone calls, two visits in person to hear reasons or maybe excuses and the job had still not begun. I sat with him on one of the occasions as he manipulated design software on an ancient pc. It didn’t fill me with great hope, but at least it was progress of a sort. The aluminium was to be ordered and while he fiddled I sourced the new telescopic feet. I sat on a broken chair and flipped through a dust-covered catalogue from a dilapidated shelf unit in his office, surrounded by discarded paper notes with unfathomable hieroglyphics, small fabricated widgets forgotten on every surface and the detritus of years of working just like that.
My next and most recent visit was the most depressing to date. He told me the frame was being constructed in yet another barn/workshop. I crept into the gloom to find another man welding pieces of aluminium box. Now I have heard that aluminium is difficult to weld, so an opening gambit was words to that effect. I wish I could remember his exact reply. They were not the words of a man who loved his work.
The small sockets that would take the new support legs for the stage were on a bench covered with stuff. Above the bench was the nude calendar. I should have known this would be a workshop where there would be a nude calendar. The small sockets being welded had not been cleaned up (so their edges were covered with sharp finger-ripping burrs) but that did not seem to be important. It would have been to Tegid. I offered to do it and was told there should be a file ‘somewhere on the bench’. I filed the edges with the nude gazing provocatively down. I avoided her gaze.
When I left the welding machine had broken down. I glanced at the welds which were untidy and uncared for.
I await the next call to say the frame is finished so I can assist in its attachment to my beautiful stage.
I am in a state of turmoil and will let you know what happens next. Tegid, please come back. I miss you.
All the best from a road near you,