Retired carpenter Ralph Heading will lead an artist talk on Oct. 6 about his retro-futuristic artistic creations.

Sweet dreams and flying machines

Artist Ralph Heading will bring his steampunk vision for an artist talk at the Surrey Art Gallery on Oct. 6.




Photos above by Boaz Joseph / The Leader

The contraptions that Ralph Heading builds in his garage in Boundary Bay certainly look like they could actually work.

They’ve got wheels, sails, engines, lights, wings, suspensions and buckets of Victorian-era character.

Steeped in a fantasy 19th century world of copper, steam engines and wild imagination, they bring a Jules Vernesque vision to life.

“What I do is echoed in Steampunk,” says the 70-year-old retired carpenter.

Preparing some of his items for an upcoming artist talk at the Surrey Art Gallery, Heading has lots to choose from to bring: Tugboats, flying saucers, steam-powered wagons, robots, divers and turtles with mobility aids provided by his imaginary Industrial Revolution.

Heading is fascinated with contraptions powered by things that pre-date the internal combusion engine. More often than not, steam power and animals are involved.

And while most of his dozens of creations look metallic and heavy, they’re often made of styrofoam, sometimes light enough to hang from the ceiling by a single string.

Heading says he loves the colour of rust and patina (the tarnish on copper, brass and other materials) and often makes his own “fake rust” to add to objects made of foam, compressed paper towels, wood, or ceramic (courtesy of some pottery training).

His creations are all augmented by discarded household hardware or plumbing materials, often provided by “care packages” from acquaintences cleaning out their own garages.

He’s used metal tea filters for his “jet engines” and bullet casing for vehicle suspensions and exhaust pipes.

“It’s just… junk,” Heading says.

Heading’s workspace has an area set aside with got bins of thown-away parts to choose from: “Long things, round things, shiny things…”

About the only “new” technology he uses are LEDs to give his contraptions character in the dark.

Heading, a longtime volunteer with the Canadian Executive Service Organization, has travelled across the world (not in 80 days) over the years to share expertise in developing countries.

He says he was impressed and influenced by creativity and resourcefulness of South American artists – particularly those making their livelihood by selling hand-crafted things to tourists.

Heading took some of their make-something-out-of-nothing philosophy home, adapting it to his fascination with the steam power era, and his subsequent retro-futuristic creations.

Unlike the artists he met in South America, Heading doesn’t have to do this for a living.

“There’s a certain point in your life where everything you’ve learned, everything you’ve done, becomes purely yours to enjoy. The outcome is for you. It doesn’t have a purpose, it’s for pleasure.”

Ralph Heading will lead a Surrey Art Gallery Association Artist Talk: In Pursuit of Flying Contraptions on Oct. 6 from 7:30-9 p.m. Admission is free. Refreshments will be provided. The art gallery is located at 13750 88 Ave. To contact Heading, call 604-644-2132 or email jwood@dccnet.com

Surrey North Delta Leader

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Cloverdale automobile shop offers to pick up, service, and drop off vehicles

Surrey’s Visscher-Pau Automotive starts ‘Blue Glove’ valet service — will cover Cloverdale, Langley, Newton, Fleetwood, and Hazelmere

White Rock brewery turns up the (alcohol by) volume in COVID-19 fight

3 Dogs Brewing is making hand sanitizer for frontline workers, general public

Surrey RCMP looking for ‘distraction theft’ suspect

Suspect allegedly tried to swipe a man’s necklace while giving him a hug

1,000 food hampers packed for delivery to students of Surrey’s inner-city schools

City Dream Centre-led initiative involved volunteer effort at Horizon Church in Newton

Surrey councillor wants property taxes deferred to December

Linda Annis is expected to present notice of motion to that effect at April 6 “virtual” council meeting

Fraser Valley auto sound business starts producing face shields

Certified Auto Sound & Security is doing what it can to help frontline healthcare workers.

B.C. clears more acute hospital beds as COVID-19 case growth slows

Province holding about 40% of beds empty for peak still to come

As 500K+ apply for emergency benefit, Trudeau says aid coming for Canadians left behind

Canada Emergency Response Benefit provides $2,000 per month

Wearing non-medical masks can stop spread of COVID-19 before symptoms start: Tam

Health officials had previously not recommended wearing them

UPDATE: UK PM Boris Johnson moved to intensive care after COVID-19 symptoms worse

He has been quarantined in his Downing St. residence since being diagnosed with COVID-19 on March 26

Travellers, travel agents ‘in agony’ over refund policies and customer service

Many Canadian carriers are offering customers flights rebookings or travel vouchers — but not refunds

Introverted and extroverted kids likely to react differently to COVID-19 restrictions

B.C. child psychologist says your parenting approach can’t be one-size fits all in social isolation

B.C. begins taking submissions for $2M COVID-19 research fund

Rural health, impact of shifting hospital resources among priorities

Most Read