In a room full of artists, it may not be wise to stand on a stage and with amplified voice point out the fact that plumbing is an art form, as beautiful as any painting or sculpture or string-art creation. Like the street corner bullhorn preacher, starched three-piece suit, these words offend most of those within earshot. They cannot comprehend his message, think him a lunatic spouting absurdity. They walk past smirking, nodding their heads, thinking themselves intelligent and enlightened. Like that passionate man, that fish out of water, I stand in your midst – you artists of word and paint and wood and video blip – and take my place in your midst, declare my kinship, my passion for the art of plumbing.
Like Joe, my painter friend, you may reject the notion wholesale that engineered systems of any sort can be beautiful. Pipes buried, invisible inside a wall is all that you see. Or don’t see, as the case may be.
I pity your blindness, friends. I long to share with you the truth that plumbing is far more splendid than merely a method of water delivery. Far more splendid indeed! Of course I refer only to plumbing done right, not hackwork like that perpetrated on my very own bathroom just three years ago. When I look up at the basement rafters and see the sloppy drippy seams or the careless angles of the pipe, I am filled with dark thoughts for that man who dared associate himself with the noble fraternity of plumbers, both professional and amateur. I am filled with an intense desire to cover up the pipes with acoustic ceiling tiles, though in my heart I know the honorable craftsman would rip out this atrocity and begin afresh, like a painter covering over with gesso his failed canvas, to begin again.
But, ahhh! – plumbing done right! This is surely a craft, a thing of beauty like any other. Tell me… how different am I from the man who designs and builds fine furniture? Consider if you will Breuer’s tubular Wassily Chair of the1925 Bauhaus school? This classic chair and a quality run of plumbing bear striking similarity. Both are built with metal pipe. Both take great care in the elegance and beauty of the lines. Both employ clean, strong joints of molten metal. And is our craft not similar in its utility? Both providing a usefulness, a function, beyond mere beauty for beauty’s sake.
Yes … I said beauty. Beauty! Plumbing done right is a beautiful thing. When you stand in a gallery examining a painting, you gaze at the paint strokes, sense the plan and hand of the artist. Likewise, anyone can appreciate the sculptor’s craft when standing before a large figure chiseled from a single piece of marble. Friends, have you taken the time to stand in the presence of great plumbing? To gaze upon the perfect soldering. To recognize the plumber’s elegant plan. To see the places where he responded to unexpected challenges and had to improvise, work around obstacles, to realize his ultimate vision. And ultimately, to turn the tap and in one thrilling motion discover the delight of a leak-free system. This – friends, colleagues, and fellow artists – is the art of plumbing done right.
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