In my view, some form of engineering lies behind almost all works of art, even if it’s just the question of the best way to hang objects in a gallery.
One of my favourite books is “Engineers of the Imagination” by Welfare State International, a manual of “how to” for the ambitious maker. For example: “How to” build a flaming tower without it collapsing and spraying your audience with burning tar. Within that book I’ve found countless tips and tricks which have made events quicker to prepare and safer to execute. And my work with fire sculptures wouldn’t have been possible without the knowledge of materials and suppliers provided in those pages.
For my first Summer job while still at school I worked for 8 weeks as a draughtsman in a local engineering company. I had already been honing my drawing accuracy for my Biology ‘A’ level, for which detailed scale drawings from the microscope were required. Now I had to try and keep up with professionals 15 years my senior.
I did OK. I wasn’t as quick with the drawing, but my accuracy was good. My writing was rubbish, so I was constantly being brought up for illegible labelling. On the other hand, my triangle calculations were exceptional, and by the end of my 8 weeks stint the other draughtsmen were habitually asking me to double check any complex calculations they had to make – and I found a few mistakes.
It was incredibly satisfying at the end to see the “Quarry Conveyor Terminal Unit” that I had been designing all Summer produced, shipped and fitted. Rocks continuously tumbled over the end of my unit for years to come!
I’ve never seen myself as an engineer though. An artist with a day-job, and both art and day-job include aspects of engineering. But not “An Engineer”.
Until this week. My employer wants “Chartered Engineers” in his company. Apparently it’s good for marketing: “We’ve got [some number] of Chartered Engineers leading our projects”. I’ve been asked if I would make an application as a Software Engineer.
I’ve been messing about with “caricatures”: carefully measured drawings from photos including subtle distortions. Here’s one of my boss, who has quite narrow eyes when smiling, with his eyes widened … kind of unsettling.
I’ve looked it up online. Opinion is sharply divided as to the value of the qualification. Roughly 50% consider it the “Gold Standard” of engineering competence and leadership, while the other 50% consider it the “Gold Standard” of an old fart. Being the latter, I should at least be in with a chance.
I’ve just had my initial coaching interview with the Institute of Engineering and Technology who would be sponsoring my application. My coach’s opinion is that I stand a good chance, so now I have to fill in the application forms and a detailed work history, ticking off each competence that I have to demonstrate as I go. Apparently I should include all voluntary, community and creative enterprises as well, as Chartered Engineers have to demonstrate some level of community involvement and ethical standards, as well as straightforward technical skill and experience.