Patrick Williams, the new wood shop and metal shop teacher at South Fork High School is both artist and teacher. As an artist, teaching vocational technologies is one of the ways he can stay close to his trade. Williams is teaching two wood shop classes and one metal shop class at South Fork.
His artistic media in sculpture is wide ranging, including fabric, metal and wood. He has cast bronze, worked with powder-coated aluminum, and mixed media. He has experience as a monumental art fabricator and worked for companies that do large statuary castings and shops that do art fabrication for large artists such as Jeff Koons or Disney.
He has recently been doing some bas-relief stone sculpture, a style of art which also translates well to wood.
Williams has taught school before but this is his first time teaching wood shop. He has gotten suggestions from his friend Ruelon Williams, the wood shop teacher at Arcata High School, on how to get the wood shop program here going again.
It’s been a couple of years since there were shop programs at South Fork. It was highly requested when students were polled on their choices of electives last spring.
The Humboldt County Office of Education Regional Occupational Program (HROP) saw the need down here and got on board with some funding, Williams explained.
Williams and the students have been working on cleaning and organizing the wood shop room. Williams believes a strong hand in revitalization of the room helps the students have a sense of responsibility and pride.
The wood shop class begins with learning about social organization within a production facility. Students need to know when it’s appropriate to get someone’s attention, and when it is imperative to get someone’s attention. You can’t have seven people crammed around a moving blade. Learning how to keep injuries down and have smooth, clean production and quality work in a commercial art environment is the name of the game, Williams explained.
The metal shop classroom needs some work, too, but it was more like someone had just shut the door and left. The students have already done more projects in metal shop, which starts with gas welding and moves to arc welding. They will fabricate things with the primary focus on welding. They might do some metal casting.
Williams commutes from Arcata, where he lives with his wife, Sondra Schwetman, the sculpture professor at Humboldt State University. His kids are Luke, age 22 and Appolonia, age 31.
Williams finds the drive from Arcata beautiful so he doesn’t mind the commute.
Williams has lived all over the west. He lived for a while in Miranda and has family ties in Southern Humboldt. His daughter and son both attended school here.
Williams described himself as a “Navy brat” who ended up in Ventura County until his early 20s, when he moved up here for college. He went to CR and got his Bachelor of Arts at HSU. His Masters of Fine Arts in sculpture is from Southern Illinois University at Carbondale.
He finds that his artwork tends to evolve slowly in a series from one process to another in similar forms.
Williams said the highs and lows of the teaching experience are intense. He said that any job that gives you a rush periodically is something you want to consider doing the rest of your life.
REDWOOD TIMES PHOTOS BY SANDY FERETTO
1. The shop room at South Fork High School is transitioning from a mess to a working studio for wood construction and art.
2. Patrick Williams, teacher and artist