Nearly 10 years ago, on an early morning trip to Rochester, New York’s Public Market, my wife and I walked by an old quonset hut where I could see an artist was using a cutting torch to heat and shape a piece of metal. With his back to the street, the light emanating from the torch outlined his body in a flashing smoke-filled halo. While I focused on this image, my wife Leslie was eyeing up the Artists’ work that was proudly displayed outside his shop.
“He does nice work, we should stop on our way out of the market and look around.”
That day would be the first of many trips we would make to the Lasting Art shop.
John Grieco is a Firefighter, Business Owner and Artist from Rochester, NY. If you live in the Rochester area or for that matter, anywhere in Western, New York, you have seen some of John’s amazing metal work.
John Grieco and I grew up in a small town west of Rochester, New York in the 1970’s. If you went to Spencerport in the 1960’s 70’s and 80’s it’s likely you knew one of 9 Grieco children.
“We didn’t have a lot growing up. With 9 kids in the family you didn’t get new bikes for Christmas or birthdays. That’s how I first figured out I had this mechanical ability. Out of necessity, I learned I could fix bikes. Taking parts from one bike, I could make another bike work! We lived on our bikes all the time as kids; it’s how we got around and they were one of the ways we could entertain ourselves. At the time, I never thought about this mechanical ability as a trade, it was just something I could do.”
Not long out of high school, someone encouraged John to take the Firefighters exam and a two years later he was hired on to become a Firefighter for the City of Rochester. His work and business as an Artist would come several years later.
“While my Dad had no mechanical ability whatsoever, I do consider him a mentor because he taught me this work ethic that I still have today. The schedule I work as a firefighter resulted in having the time to do other things and in a round about way, it’s how I got started in this business. We needed a coffee table at home, and I had a vision of what I thought would look good, some old scrap metal and a piece of granite. I had to get a friend to weld the steel for me and as I watched him. I thought; I can do that!”
“I enrolled in a 16-week continuing education course for welding at Edison Tech and it all began to come together. I had a great instructor, Rich Firstoff who worked at Jackson Welding and as Rich learned what I was doing he set me up with a welding machine, clamps, grinders, and all the tools that would fit my business. From there I took some beat and heat, forge welding courses and became a member of New York State Design Blacksmiths. Add to that, I have friends who are Tin Knockers and Pipefitters who have helped me through the years and in the end, I somehow found this career where I love what I do.
I remember the day I was hired, looking over a fire truck, inspecting at all the gauges, valves and instruments and thinking I wasn’t worthy. I had no idea how any of this stuff worked, I might as well have been put inside the cockpit of a commercial airliner, it was that foreign to me. Thirty years later as I close in on retirement I look back and realize I was worthy all along. If I could pass on anything to the next generation of skilled trades people or firefighters, it’s that you are worthy. Go out and learn, immerse yourself in learning everything you can, and you’ll be amazed at the things you can do and the doors that open as a result.”
Ten years later, we can’t go to the Rochester Public Market without stopping in to see John and have a look at what he has been working on. I think he might have been a bit surprised when I called him to ask if he would take part in this series. “I didn’t really ever consider myself to be a tradesperson. I just needed to learn a few things to be able to make the things I envision when I see some old pieces of metal and once I learned how to do them it all came together.”
And that statement, was exactly why I wanted my friend John to be a part of this series. How many tradespeople working today have some of John Grieco’s artistic ability living inside them? How many potential Artists are out there who simply need some exposure to the trades to launch a successful career?
In an effort to answer that question, John has been accepting and working with Art Interns from RIT (Rochester Institute of Technology). “I love working with theses students, teaching them this trade, the finer points of how to weld, cut and shape metal and seeing their ideas come to life.”
Inspiring others and giving back is what it’s all about.
Douglas Plucknette is the President of Reliability Solutions, Inc. and creator of RCM Blitz™. The author of Reliability Centered Maintenance using RCM Blitz™ and Clean, Green and Reliable a best-selling book on how to reduce energy consumption in manufacturing plants through equipment reliability. Doug has published over 100 articles on Maintenance and Reliability, and has been a featured Speaker as well as Keynote Speaker at a countless number of conferences around the world.