Yardie Interviews → Dalzell Interview

September 9th, 2010 - Dave Dalzell and Bobbie Berking Dalzell, Yardie students

Dave Dalzell and Bobbie Berking Dalzell, husband and wife, took Nora Rabin’s Introduction to Welding: Using Found Objects course this past summer.  While Bobbie worked on steel sculptures (currently exhibited at Wheeler), Dave opted for building functional pieces for their home. Intrigued by their decision to take a welding course together as well as the sculptural versus utilitarian directions of their individual projects, we wanted to find out more behind this dynamic duo. 

Steel Yard: How did you first hear about the Steel Yard?
Bobbie Berking Dalzell: Through friends who knew I make sculpture.

Dave Dalzell:  Bobbie was the ringleader here; however, I've known Nick Bauta for sometime now and I had a feeling that the Steel Yard experience would be intriguing.

SY: So you are an artist, did you already know how to weld?
BBD: I went to Maryland Institute College of Art, majored in Sculpture, and welded with oxy-acetylene and arc welders.  That was 30 years ago!  For many years, I have worked in stone, wood, wire, aluminum, and thin steel; making large mobiles and standing sculptures using adhesives to build my pieces.  I also make jewelry, so occasionally my pieces were smaller and had a delicate, jewel-like look.

SY: What made you decide to take Nora’s course together?
BBD: Dave and I first took Nora's weekend welding class and liked it so much we rolled right into the Monday night class. To me, three continuous days of welding was heaven!

DD:  Of all the classes these seemed like a great place to begin learning about metalwork.  One gains a vast appreciation for expert metalworkers and fabricators, plus coming away with a few built objects is terrific. 

SY: Did you work well together or did you get competitive with each other?
BBD: Dave and I work so well together; we really enjoy each other's company, and respect and appreciate each other’s perspective and viewpoint on designs and pieces.  We worked at our own tables and then wandered over to see what each other were doing. Dave would help me clamp two pieces of steel together or I would wander over to his table and watch him build his perfect grill tray. 

DD:  Complimentary more than anything.  In fact, I would gain from watching the others, especially Bobbie, as they designed, built and refined their sculptures.  

SY: What did you think of the class?
BBD: I was excited to continue where I left off with the weekend welding class and delighted Nora was teaching it, as she knew what I wanted to do and let me work independently on my sculptures, but she always there for me with timely advice and design solutions when I needed help.  I depended on her artistic and design sense and her knowledge of different techniques to help me complete my pieces.  I needed a technician who knew all the tools at the Steel Yard but I also needed an artist to help me solve my design problems. Being in a small class was so perfect; we each had our own table and welder!
DD:  With Nora, it was a case of getting crisp direction on how to safely use the gear, blended with her experience in the materials and processes.  I went from zero to building stuff sooner than I imagined.

SY: What did you make in the class?
BBD: I made 5 sculptures ranging in size from 2'-6' high. 

DD:  A couple of grill surfaces, some grill tools, a floor lamp, and a table.  All very basic, certainly not to the standard of an experienced builder, but sufficient for their purpose and satisfying to use.

SY: Dave, I think your lamp and grill tools are fabulous. You each took your projects in different directions, sculptural work versus functional. Did you come into the course knowing what you wanted to make? How did the class help facilitate the diversity of your projects?
BBD: I knew I wanted to make sculpture.  For me to take Nora's welding class and make large, strong, sculptures was exhilarating! Nora was clear in her instructions handling the tools and materials and supported each of us doing our own thing. Russell made sculptures using mostly found objects from scrap yards and Matt worked on one large dramatic shelf made patiently in steel and wood. Everyone in class was generous with their advice and feedback, which I think is very important in a class.  I was always sketching new ideas for pieces I wanted to make, but I was challenged by the available steel in the trailer. So I had to stay flexible to make sculpture based on what was available. Dave and I plan to visit more scrap yards.
DD: I didn't have a list of projects when I began.  Instead, I took a look around the trailer where materials are set aside for our use and tried to learn how to combine them in interesting ways; a largely experimental process.  Once I had the hang of working with the materials, I started on things that I knew I could use around the house.  Nora was clearly looking for a nub of a flame that she could fan in each of us.

SY: I heard that Bobbie recently exhibited her sculptures. Can you tell us about that?                                                                 
BBD: I teach art to 1-5th graders at Providence’s Wheeler School. Every two years we, the art faculty, show our own work in the Chazan Gallery on campus.  I currently have 4 pieces in the gallery that I made at the Steel Yard!

SY: They are beautiful; please keep up us posted on any of your upcoming exhibits.  What about you Dave?  What did you end up doing with your projects?
DD: We love to entertain, and we've had a number of cookouts where all my simple pieces are used.  Afterwards, I read by the light of my floor lamp!

SY: Any welding plans after this class?
BBD: I'm taking Nora's class on Monday nights again so I can continue making more sculpture!

DD: Blacksmithing seems like the next thing for me; an ancient art and a terrific way to delve into the organic nature of metal.

The diversity of your individual projects truly showcase the experimentation we seek and value in our programs. Thank you both, we look forward to having you back at the Yard!

(The lab fee for our courses includes steel for demonstrations and practice, if students need steel for course projects we can order it and/or suggest local places to buy it.)