I found him through a trusted recommendation and knocked on his hand-crafted metal-ball door-knocker back in May, with my metal problem: I wanted to make a quilt out of reclaimed copper piping and other old gizmos. I had my pitch all ready to go, something along the lines of, "I know this sounds crazy but hear me out..." but I could see he was already loving the idea.
"I really want to do it," he said, and I could see I had found the right craftsman for the job.
For the next four months, Noah turned my full-size paper pattern pieces into two mirror-image, six-foot-square quilts of 10 lapping 'log cabin' blocks, which was installed in the front entrance of the City of North Vancouver's new Operations Centre last night, at the time of this posting.
Sometimes ignorance is bliss. I didn't even know what brazing was when assemblage artist (and Noah's neighbour) Valerie Arntzen brought me around to his place. I didn't know that you can't just solder different metals together. I simply handed over the goodies I found at my favourite scrap yards (thank you for putting those gems aside, Richard of North Star Recycling and Dung of Allied Salvage). Apart from some initial head-scratching and smiling, Noah did not harp on the fact these were time-consuming challenges. Had I known the trouble he would take dissembling old spigots and repairing bronze pressure gauges I might have clawed back on the scrappy treasures.
It also had not dawned on me that paper patterns might not be suitable in a workplace that is all fire and molten metal, a problem he solved by laying a thick piece of tempered glass between the patterns and the hot solder and copper. Problem-solving is the mark of fine craftsmanship.
Noah claimed to like the quilter's block-by-block approach to creating complex pattern and texture. I appreciated the fact that he also saw visual value of keeping the soldering drips and the entire range of patinas of copper, from black to turquoise to new-penny pink, instead of polishing it all to a high sheen. That ability to let go of the need to create a perfect joint or a uniform result speaks to the artist in this craftsman.
There are many leaps of faith in the making of something never before attempted. No amount of sketching, Photoshop'd artist renderings or 3-D modelling can create the same sense of the actual thing in its intended space. So as City of North Vancouver workers passed by during the installation last night, joking about how it looked like their last job, or asking if we've checked for leaks, or pointing out some gizmo-relic they remember (including some donated from the City's own works yard), we were having our own first look at our collaborated effort. The glints of hand-rubbed corners and the deep shadows on the wall were all pulling together in this soaring, 12-foot-high structure.
And... breathe out. Waterwork is working. Thank you, Noah.