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Yardie Interviews → Frank & Emanuel Barada

July 14th, 2011 - Frank & Emanuel (Manny) Barada, Local Artists and Metalworkers

Frank and Manny Barada have been doing metalwork around Providence for some time now.  If you’ve walked through Olneyville, around the Steel Yard or down Broad Street, you’ve most likely seen their work.  Recently they have been exploring and sharing some of their own metalworking techniques and are looking forward to expanding their involvement at the Yard through teaching.  Take a minute and read about how they approach their artwork, the community and their working relationship. 

Frank and Manny


Steel Yard: How and when did you first become involved at the Steel Yard?
Frank Barada: Back in 2007 we were working for Edgar Castillo on handrails at Monohasset Mill next door and bumped into a few artists who were involved at the Steel Yard.  They recommended we come check things out.  Right around that time the Olneyville tree guard project got started, and I became a member of the team. 

SY: How did you get started metalworking? 
Emanuel Barada: I started with Edgar (Ed) when I was 15 as his assistant.  He started letting me build some of the smaller projects and later I got to design, build and paint some projects of my own. 
FB: At that point I’d never seen welding, but I thought the projects Manny was bringing home were cool.  One day he called me and said Ed was looking for a hand moving his shop to Johnston, RI.  I went along and Manny showed me some of the tools and equipment.  At his new shop, Manny taught me how to stick weld.  Ed checked out my work, thought I was doing pretty well, and asked if I wanted to stick around for a while.  Sticking around for a while turned into 8 years. 

We both learned a lot and had a lot of fun.  Whenever we would do a job, there were always cut-offs, ends and stuff that would get discarded.  Thats what we started using for material in our work.  We had a tight relationship with Ed, and he’d let us spend all night working in the shop using that scrap. 

SY:  Before working with Ed, what were you up to? 
EB: I went to a vocational school, Job Corps, but I had a hard time with the construction trades mainly because the attitudes of the other students made it hard to learn.  The other option at Job Corps was culinary arts.  I knew I loved cooking, but at the time didn’t know much else about it.  I’d say that was my first initiation into art as a trade skill.  We had a lot of creativity in school, but then working in kitchens after Job Corps, I realized I was looking for more. 

SY: There’s a lot to be said for creative freedom, it must be what keeps you coming back here.
EB: Definitly.
FB: Oh yeah.

SY: What was the fence project you both worked on recently? 
FB: The Steel Yard is interested in getting more fence jobs and being able to train young people how to design and build them.  They were looking for a few prototype fence panels to use as examples.  Working with Ed, we did a lot of metal cold-bending.  When this project came along, we thought that it would be a great training technique because its safer without using heat, and helps keep costs down without the added expense of gas.  Its just a way to bring a lot of design and creativity to a standard fence.  We decided to experiment using one single bend repetitiously to come up with a variety of designs.  

Barada Fence

SY: Do you have any favorite projects?
FB: That’s tough.  There hasn’t been a project yet that I haven’t liked, and I don’t think there will be.  The Prudence Island fish bike rack was pretty cool (pictured below).  My favorite though could be my first project, the Olneyville tree guards.  That was my first experience with someone saying, “here’s a whole bunch of material, and all these tools - do what you do”.  Just being here, and the encouragement we feel, says more than any one project. 
EB: I’d have to say they are all my favorites.  Everything from volunteering on Arbor day, to doing side work with Mid-Ocean Studios, any involvement I’ve had has been great.  Even coming down for this interview got me all excited.  My girlfriend was like, “Have fun!  You’re probably going to spend the whole day there since you never want to leave.”  She might be right. 

SY: Frank, you’ve started assisting some courses here recently.  What’s the transition from fabricator to teacher been like?
FB: It pretty much started with the prototype fence.  While we were in the shop working, a lot of people came through and checked out the progress.  Before that I was kind of a quiet guy, usually kept to myself and kept working, but everybody was so impressed and excited by the progress I got more into talking about the work.  Alma offered me an opening for a teacher’s assistant in a Weekend Welding Workshop.  After that I worked with six students from the Met on a bench project. 

It’s cool for people to get to see and learn these processes and how a project goes together.  One of the reasons we’re getting into teaching is so we can offer a Cold-Bending Workshop soon.  Before that we just have to get some more experience teaching and assisting other classes.

EB: I’m hoping to start assisting workshops this fall. 

SY: Manny, your tattoo looks like some of the figurative metalwork we’ve seen you make.  What is the inspiration for that?
EB: While we were making straight, standard fence projects, I started to see the material as something that needed to be changed or made different.  I would see like, stick figures in the straight material.  I think of the swirl-stick figure as being more evolved.  I started drawing them with arms and legs that go in every direction.  Once I learned how to bend the metal, I thought I could put the pieces together to form figures making all kinds of gestures. 

SY: So what’s next for your work and artwork?
FB: We have so many dreams.  The artwork would be my ultimate goal.  I’d like to make a living off of that.  On a more realistic level, I just want to jazz the whole city around here.  We can make pretty, unique metalwork that everyone can enjoy and gets the community involved.  To make a business out of that is one of our goals.  We’d do that together, we’re partners in crime for everything now.

We have a relationship that’s like chef and sous chef.  Manny will chef-it-up and I’ll add some spices, or I’ll chef-it-up and Manny will add the spice.  It’s just not a full meal unless it’s got both of our input.

SY: Are you from Providence?
EB: We were born in Dorchester, MA, we bounced around a little, but we were pretty much raised in the West End of Providence. 

SY:  Are there other artists in your family?
FB: My father is pretty artistic, he does architectural design and carpentry.  I thought his blueprints and abstract drawings were really cool when I was younger.  I kind of wanted to follow his footprints, but after working with carpentry for a while, I realized I didn’t like it.  Something about the smell of carpentry.  Metalwork smells to, but it’s a different smell.
EB: Our mom was a dancer/model.  She did a lot of performance work and photography.  I saw it as something they were good at, but not what they did to bring home money.  She always told me if you want to be something, just go out and find it.  I never knew what that meant until I started working with the scrap material.  I realized it was my art-form, and I couldn’t ignore it. 

SY: You guys put two pieces in the recent Steel Yard show in Tiverton, Fertile City.  What was that experience like?
FB: When Drake invited us to join the show, she said she really liked the giant dinosaur that Manny and Edgar had worked on a while back.  She kept referring to having a “creature double feature”, and if we were interested in creating another piece for the show, we could.  So we started building a pterodactyl at Ed’s shop.  We just grabbed a bunch of pieces of scrap and let the material tell us what to do. 
EB: I like to call it a mutant pterodactyl.  It’s got like human arms and giant talons, it’s far from your regular pterodactyl.  A lot of our pieces make them selves.  We start with a soapstone sketch on the floor, and then we literally pick up the sketch and make it in 3-D.  We don’t want too much credit!

SY: In what ways, if any, has the Steel Yard helped your work progress?   
FB: For me I would say what the Steel Yard does for me is offer a lot of encouragement.  I get to be creative, make money, and gain exposure for my work.  I started doing this because I love it, and my creations were in my “home museum”.  Now I, and everyone else, can see my work all over town. 
EB: This is like a sanctuary, a big womb.  I realize I’m an artist among a lot of other artists, and it’s helped me grow and learn.  It’s like a fresh garden bed for me, and I’ve been able to keep growing. 

SY:  What advice do you have for someone who wants to get more involved in this kind of work?
FB: Definitely come get some experience through a weekend welding course.  Lots of people are here to help and give guidance. 
EB: Don’t knock yourself.  I would say everything around us is art.  Don’t say your not an artist until you realize what art is to you.  Anybody can be an artist, but you have to get into it and explore. 

SY: Thank you!

Prudence Fish Rack