July 2, 2008
It's July, and here in the U.S., we're planning our Independence Day, celebrations. July 4 is an important day in our nation's history. On this day in 1776, the Continental Congress approved the Declaration of Independence and set the 13 colonies on the road to freedom as a sovereign nation.
On the 4th, flags and fireworks will be flying, proud U.S. citizens will line the roads to watch patriotic parades, and backyard grills will be fired up as families gather to celebrate our country's official birthday. And one proud citizen and fabricator, Bob Williams, will take the day off from working on a unique project that commemorates a great chapter in U.S. history—one that began almost 170 years before the signing of the Declaration of Independence.
Williams, a white-collar dropout turned fabricator, is building a model of the Jamestown Fort, which will be permanently ensconced on the fort grounds. For more than 200 years, the fort was believed to have been washed into the James River. That wasn"t the case. Archeologists are busy excavating the site, and Williams is assembling the model under a canopy on the site, in full view of visitors.
Mother's Day weekend, my husband and I happened upon Williams at work when we visited Jamestown, the first permanent English settlement in the New World. I immediately stopped and watched Williams work, marveling at the large slab of silicon-bronze plate that bore wooden palisades and intricate models of buildings.
Ignoring the signs that cautioned visitors not to interrupt his working, I discreetly caught Williams' eye and asked if I could speak with him. He kindly, though warily, walked over to the rope behind which visitors were instructed to stay. As we talked, and as he learned that I was genuinely interested in the project, he spoke about his work with refreshing enthusiasm. He described how he left corporate America to become a fabricator, how he became involved with the Jamestown project, and how much he loves what he does.
Williams also let me cross the rope to view the model. I did so from several perspectives: as a finely crafted piece of metalworking; a work of art; and an historical representation of an important part of U.S. history. I asked Williams how he felt about being associated with a project of this magnitude. He said, "If I died having never done anything else, I would be grateful for and proud of this work. I have looked upon it for some time as my 'legacy project.'"
Believing that metal fabricators and U.S. citizens in all walks of life would be interested in Williams" story, I have written an article about the artist and the project. "The road to Jamestown: A white-collar dropout fabricates his legacy project" will be published on thefabricator.com July 15.
Although most of us may never have the opportunity to work on something as noteworthy as the Jamestown Project, we always should take pride in our work and treat it as our legacy. In all probability, the settlers at Jamestown had no idea what an important legacy they were creating as they went about their daily lives.
You can read more about the Jamestown Rediscovery here.