Hilary Peach

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Union craft inspires art for Local 359 member

“I now believe in my bones that I can fix anything. I can figure it out. Artists do that, too.”
— Hilary Peach

Hilary Peach travels out of Local 359 and often does confined space jobs in pulp mills. Here she welds tubes to a header. Photo courtesy of Gord Kappel.

Hilary Peach’s first poetry book out now

BOILERMAKERS AND ARTISTS have quite a bit in common says Hilary Peach, a Local 359 (Vancouver, British Columbia) member who wields a welding torch as well as a pen. She finds that many artists acquire day jobs in the trades. As an artist who is skilled in several mediums, and as a Boilermaker, she understands why.

“Boilermakers are welders and mechanics, fabricators and riggers,” Peach says, noting that likewise, interdisciplinary artists master a variety of different art forms. That’s something that drew her to the union.

Peach discovered the Boilermakers after she finished her undergraduate degree in theater and literature at the University of British Columbia. That’s when she realized she needed a parallel career.“If you have an art practice, you learn pretty fast that you’d better get another job to make a living,” Peach says.

In addition to traveling out of Local 359 doing pressure welding and other jobs in confined spaces, Peach is a sculptor, poet, filmmaker and writer — her debut poetry book “Bolt” came out in July. She’s also a spoken word performance artist who has graced stages all over the globe.

If that’s not enough, Peach has her own blacksmith shop on Gabriola Island in British Columbia, where she lives. In her 12-by-12 shop, she teaches beginning classes in blacksmithing, introducing seven different techniques during a three-hour session. She also uses the shop to complete small repair jobs for the island’s locals. And, she founded the Poetry Gabriola Society in 2000 and launched the Poetry Gabriola Festival — the island’s yearly arts festival.

Combining her craft and her creative mind, Peach has used her work as a Boilermaker to influence her art. In the early 2000s, she worked for five months across the U.S. on a travel card. She describes her time in the states as “interesting, challenging and eye-opening.”

“There’s something about traveling a long way from your comfort zone alone as a young woman,” Peach says. “There were a lot of narratives — stories attached to those different adventures.”

That five-month journey turned into a spoken recording titled “Suitcase Local,” performed with a live band. The recording features four pieces that were named after the different states where she worked. Eventually, she took “Suitcase Local” on tour as a live show.

LISTEN TO HILARY Peach’s recordings of her performance art and discover her writings at www.hilarypeach.ca.

Peach fits her interdisciplinary art practice around her work as a Boilermaker. After 20 years in the field, she believes her two professions pair well.

“Someone gave me some good advice once: Follow your curiosity. It will lead you to unpredictable places. It might be a short story, a song, directing a film . . . you don’t always have to know,” Peach says. “Boilermakers have that. We’re all about problem solving. When I started in the union, I had a sense that ‘I can’t do this. I don’t know what to do about this.’ I now believe in my bones that I can fix anything. I can figure it out. Artists do that, too.”

THIS IS ONE of many poems found in her new book, “Bolt,” published by Anvil Press, available now at www.anvilpress.com.

The Anvils Are Restless

and ramble out
onto the main road
rumbling the moonlight
their square hooves slow
as handwriting
deliberate as ice

in older times
they roamed more freely
in greater numbers
were less guarded
and so were we
scarred with chiselmarks
scorched with hope

anvils remember everything
every thing that they have
ever made
every blow and ring

and we
will make everything
or we say we will
or we want to
or we want to say
we will
make everything
out of everything
seamless and heavy
tender hammerblows
ringing bright as stone

anvils live for two hundred
or three hundred years
if they live at all
if they aren’t captured
during the dark times
confiscated and rendered
into arms

that was a long time ago

they are skittish
and on the move
making a break for it
they angle swaybacked
down the main road
swinging their great horns
from side to side
their breath
cool as smoke
the scent of something
tenderly uncertain
on the air.