As our projects grew ever larger and more complex we quickly realized we needed a bigger workspace. We wanted it to be home based and anything but ordinary. We lived a unique lifestyle and we wanted our home and shop to reflect this. They would be a showcase of what we did. Through the next ten years we actually bought five different properties and drew up many, many versions of our dream home and workshop complex. Each time the realities of client's projects, budgets and life in general changed these plans. It would be more than a decade before the work space became real and more than two decades before the dream home was built. Dreaming of the possibilities through the years was a fun exercise.
The first years were all about building our skills and techniques. Mostly it was trial and error and there were plenty of mistakes. I vividly remember the excitement of this project as we tested new (to us) techniques in welding frames, attaching the lath and then doing our first truly sculpted concrete work. We troweled on the concrete, waited (too long) for it to set up and then scratched in the texture with custom, self made tools. Despite our inexperience it worked! Although he was still in high school Peter joined our team as he was able during this period.
I had great fun looking back through old photo albums and picture files as I thought about our history. So many memories came flooding back of projects and people whom we worked with. As I went through the pictures and considered the story I will tell over the next days, a common thread was readily evident. The most obvious was how family members played such a large role in the success of the company. The second thing was how, from the very start, we were always reaching to the edge of our capabilities, both in terms of experience and ability. Each project we tackled through the years raised the bar, often much higher than we were comfortable with. Someone would ask 'Could you build me a _______?' The answer was always YES!. Then we would scramble to figure out how it was even possible. That continues to this day.
Like many successful businesses we started in our garage, which proved to be far too small. Each project had to include a tool budget because we desperately needed them as well. Often we made do and still thrived. We started small. It was like throwing a pebble into a pond. The splash was tiny but the ripple circles spread wide. Word got out and our jobs rapidly grew in complexity and size.
I drew on my past experience and did both design and fabrication. One of the early projects was the design for the Chemainus Dinner theatre.
I also did the occasional projects as a subcontractor for my brother Garry, who was in a similar business. Our first pieces were of wood and plaster. I gained that experience working along side my father growing up.
One of our earliest theme projects built in the basement shop and transported to the worksite was a space ship. The hundred mile trip was a white knuckle experience with two tire blowouts on the way. Our little home built trailer was badly overloaded.
Our first steel and concrete structure was also done in our first year. It was massive, measuring sixty feet wide and almost forty feet tall. We started it with no knowledge or experience of this type of work but gained a lot of valuable information and experience in only thirty days.
After our first year we knew this was the perfect business for us. Anything we could dream up was actually possible. We just had to figure out how. The adventure of a lifetime had begun.