Sunday, June 26, 2011

Entry #1

Uncle Bob’s Blog 
My name is Robert Walsh (Uncle Bob). This is my blog.
I own/operate a business, The R. Walsh Memorial and Ornamental Iron Co.
Our primary products are memorial items. Why would anyone selling memorial products have a blog? Good question. An even better question might be, since people only (hopefully) purchase memorial products a few times in their lifetime, who would ever read or frequent a blog written by someone in my profession? Did you ever see the movie Harold and Maude?  I hope your life does not parallel that of Harold or Maude's, however, it was a really great movie.
Well, to address the above questions, who would read this, for most of my life, I would have said "not me".
Then why am I writing this blog? Well truthfully speaking, after hand forging beautiful gates and railings for fine homes for 30 years, because of the downturn in the building economy, I had to expand the focus of what we produce. That is the un-sugar coated truth. While producing architectural ironwork (gates and railings) I have written many-many articles on the subject, mostly for trade publications.  I will continue to do this because I enjoy it.  With our new focus on memorial products, I thought I would write this blog as well.  We'll see where the blog goes?
Focusing on memorial products is becoming very meaningful to me.  Let me tell you why.
In the past, I never promoted memorial work because it rubs shoulders with grief and death. Now that I am working in this field, I have found that it also has a very beautiful side. It has soul. Think about this, what is more important than a birth, the quality of life, or a death? People cry at funerals and it is often for the loss of a loved one. How meaningful is that?
I am real sorry for the grief and death part of my profession. However, when I was a welder, I cannot tell you how much meaningless stuff I welded and when finished, thought, how much better the world would be if it had the natural resources back that it took to manufacture some of this waste. I am not putting myself on any pedestal as I must admit, I am as guilty of owning as much unnecessary junk over the years as anyone else.
What I am planning for the focus of this blog will be some of the meaningful or soul side of the memorial profession, plus some metalworking techniques. The metalworking techniques will not be "how to weld" but more advanced stuff that although technical, will hopefully have a broader interest? Conceptual, more than how-to. Design composition, the different colors of bronze alloys etc.
On my own personal journey, before I leave the architectural gate and railing side of my career (unless someone calls me with an order) I would like to tell four or five stories of events (meaningful to me) that happened while I was producing decorative architectural metals. This is Uncle Bob’s story time.
Once upon a time, I/we manufactured ornate brass beds. This really dates me, but if you are older than dirt, you might remember after Bob Dylan sang his song Lay Lady Lay with the lyrics about "lay across my big brass bed" brass bed sales went through the roof. We could not make them fast enough.
One day in the midst of this brass bed frenzy, a very concerned man came into my Minneapolis shop. He had a family friend who was a 12 or so year old girl who was dying in California from a terminal disease. This very upset man asked me for help.
The man said that the young girl was granted two wishes by the facility she was in. The two wishes were, 1. To die in a brass bed that she had sketched. And 2. To die with her dog. The problem was, there was little time as she was about to die.
The man asked me if I could make a brass bed based on the girls sketch? Make it so it could be dis-assembled so he could fly it out to California? And how fast could I do it?
After a work marathon of a couple days and nights, we had it done. The man picked it up and was off to California.
A couple months later, into my shop walked the same man, not looking stressed anymore. He handed me a thank you note written by the young girl before she passed away. Passed away with her dog, in the brass bed she designed.
It’s jobs like this that make it all worthwhile.
I have a few more architectural/welding stories that have been meaningful to me. I would like to share these stories before moving on and into the memorial based blog. For me, these stories bring a beautiful conclusion to a career into which I invested 30 years of my life.
Since this is a blog and not a book however, I need to get back to work and will submit another entry as time permits (probably once or twice a month).
Uncle Bob

R. Walsh Memorial & Ornamental Iron Co.