Posts Tagged ‘artist’

Valley of the Gods & Monument Valley

6th February 2011 by Helen

This morning we took a walk around Sand Island and looked at some more petroglyphs here before heading off to drive through the Valley of the Gods.  Driving through the Navajo Indian Reservation we posed for photos in front of the Mexican Hat monument before stopping for lunch at San Juan cafe in the town of Mexican Hat.  We had a great chat with a local Indian artist working at the cafe before heading off again through Monument Valley down to Flagstaff (on Route 66).  By now it was dark and the rest area was closed so we stopped at the truckers garage (Pilot) for the night.  The roads through the Valley of the Gods and Monument Valley were ‘off road’ but in good condition and an easy drive for a 4×4.  Drove 294 miles today.

Apprenticed to an artist

17th September 2010 by Paul

It all began in a somewhat surreal way. 

amazingly clean workshop where Dima and Paul worked - photos of Dima to follow when downloaded from camera

amazingly clean workshop where Dima and Paul worked - photos of Dima to follow when downloaded from camera

Dima ‘summoned’ me from the hotel at about 8pm via a breathless intermediary knocking at our fourth floor hotel door.  “The mechanic is waiting” he announced, gesturing that I should hurry and follow him downstairs.

Dima and I worked until almost three in the morning, and without sharing a single word of each others’ native tongues, slowly became acquainted with each other’s way of signalling what had to be done next.  At three in the morning, Landy became mobile again, except for a refill of oil in the differential.  When Dima had summoned me, he had already completed a full day of work, but he showed no signs of tiring as he worked systematically, first through the diagnosis of Landy’s problem, then the remedy.

I had assured him the problem lie with the transfer gearbox, as I had wrestled with the low range lever all the way down the mountain, “and the clunks and bangs were coming from there” I told him.  But he simply asked me questions with sign language, had me wiggle this, and turn that, all the time squinting and frowning with the concentration of a top scientist experimenting.  His final flourish of magic was placing an ear to a screwdriver, the blade of which was placed delicately against the outside of the rear right hand wheel hub , while down inside the garage pit, I followed his instructions to rotate the rear propshaft slowly.

His eyes lit up and he smiled, said something in Russian, and lit up a cigarette.

Dima at work - Gusinoozersk

Dima at work - Gusinoozersk

You see the problem was not lurking in the transfer gearbox at all, but in the rear axle.  I’d sheared a half shaft with my sudden application of power, and it wasn’t the hand brake being on that had caused the damage, but its frantic release whilst power was applied, sending a massive shock  wave through the half shaft to the grippy tyres and wheels.

The spot-on diagnosis was just the start of five hours of pure magic, as this man I had never met before took me into his trust and allowed me to apprentice to him as he worked. 

Dima worked with the cleanliness and precision of a surgeon, and the flourish of an artist, stripping first the wheel hub, then the damaged half shaft, and finally the entire differential crown wheel and pinion assembly, laying all the parts out on clean white paper on the dusty workshop floor in the order they were disassembled.  He then fabricated improvised bent wire tools and cleaned the oil and broken parts from inside the axle casing.  Every last spec of debris came out and was pieced together like a 3D jigsaw to ensure there were no rogue bits left inside to cause further damage.

At one point, as he reassembled the differential pan to the differential casing, his actions typified his love for his work.  By this time, a lesser man would have been finding ways to speed up the job, but not Dima.  Cleaning the mating faces with petrol, he then blew onto them gently for a minute or two to ensure the petrol had evaporated.  He then ran his finger slowly around the faces, checking for minute flaws or grit.  Finding none, he applied silicone sealant to the pan rim, working with tiny smears of sealant each applied in slow caressing swirls around the bolt holes and formed mating surface.  He regularly held the pan up to the light to inspect his work, and worked around the pan rim slowly and diligently until finally the whole rim had a smooth, consistent smear of sealant applied.  It had taken him almost ten minutes, and he sat back on an upended log , took out a cigarette, lit it, and drew a long satisfied drag.  “Den minweets” he announced, signalling the time it would take for his work to be dry enough to assemble.

2010 09 17 - inside rear differential casing

inside rear differential casing

At about 2am, he began fitting the differential oil seal, and, finding he didn’t have the right size tool to press it in, measured the diameter of the various parts with his vernier gauge and disappeared into the dark yard outside.  After twenty minutes he reappeared carrying an armful of bits and pieces scavenged from the hubris outside.   An old cog wheel, the inner and outer races from a tapered bearing, a small block of mild steel, some large bore steel  tubing that may have been a scaffolding tube offcut,  and various nuts and bolts.  I watched transfixed as he expertly built a horizontal pyramid of parts and secured them in place with the differential input nut.  He then proceeded to wind up the nut, constantly checking and adjusting the arrangement of his pyramid, until the seal had been pressed fully home with no damage to its flimsy casing whatsoever.

Dima’s technical knowledge  and  mechanical skills were second to none, but the thing that marked him apart from other mechanics was the artistry he brought to his work.  He reminded me, in his own way, of the great artists whose loving devotion to their craft have resulted in

Dima with his car - Gusinoozersk

Dima with his Pajero - Gusinoozersk

works admired for generations.

He reminded me too, that no matter how humble or ‘ordinary’ our work, it is still possible to apply ourselves to it in the same way, and with the same love, that Michelangelo painted the Sistine Chapel.  And that when we do, the result s we achieve are equally worthy of admiration as the work of that great artist.