Amitabh Sharma, Contributor
Thomas Alva Edison's saying, "a genius is one per cent inspiration and 99 per cent perspiration", could fit Arthur Harriott, who is turning metal from its rustic form into subtle and intricate pieces of furniture and objects of daily use.
From bar stools, mirror frames, patio sets, tables and chairs, Harriott cuts, bends and lets his creative sparks fly as he welds pieces of metal together.A self-taught designer, he learnt the trade as a teenager. "I used to save money to buy (the) latest tools," he said. Growing up in Bull Bay, Harriott did welding as a vocational subject, graduated in 1992, and found a job at a fabricating workshop to hone his skills.
"I used to do evening classes at Kingston Technical and also got a certification from HEART in welding," Harriott said.
Necessity is the mother of all invention, it is said, and in 1997, his position was made redundant. Instead of searching for another job, he decided to start his own venture and began his journey of metallic creation.
"I create my own designs," Harriott says, adding that he draws inspiration from everywhere. "It could be a design that I would have seen in a magazine, or a nice shape or design that I would love to try on the items I am fabricating."
He also delves into African design, fabricating masks and faces as an element of design.
Fabricating items from sheets and pipes of metal is a labour-intensive process, similar techniques as a blacksmith are used: hammering, grinding, bending, forging and shaping metal.
Harriott informed that he first sketches the design on paper and then marks the design on the metal sheet.
His furniture is made piece by piece. "The metal has to be manually bent to give it the required shape," he said.
Once the metal sheet or pipe gets the desired shape, they are welded together. "The legs are made first, first the front set and then the back to make a secure base."
The seat or the top is then attached to the legs, which has to be levelled manually too, hammered and shaped to get the precise dimensions.
Once the frame is ready, it is time to prep it by filing the surface to make it even and uniformed, then a coat of primer is applied. When that has dried, it is then spray painted. "The whole process might take three days to a week from start to finish, depending on the size of the project," Harriott said.
Hobby and passion
For him, metal fabrication is not only a means to earn his living, but his hobby and his passion. He is also making a difference in his own way by providing employment to youth in his community in Bull Bay. "I have (employed) three to seven youth in my workshop. I am happy that they are doing something more worthwhile than sitting idle," he says.
But he adds that there is a lot he can do for the youth in the community if there is a constant flow of business. "Proper marketing is my challenge," Harriott said. "I am streamlining that, which will help a lot."
Over the years, he has diversified into making gates, as well as staircases. "Those are heavy-duty projects, and I incorporate the designs in them too," Harriott said that apart from his own designs, he can custom make anything in metal according to client specifications.
He said that people appreciate and recognise the value of metal furniture, "it is an investment that lasts a lifetime".