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

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

Just Posted

McCallum declares Feb. 1, 2020 RCMP ‘Appreciation Day’ in Surrey

This year is the centennial anniversary of the national police force

Uber threatens legal action to ‘defend its right’ to operate in Surrey

‘I have no concerns,’ Mayor Doug McCallum replies

Plans for apartments on Strawberry Hill shopping site move forward

It would be near the library, and include 123 rental units

Locke calls for brake on Surrey policing plan, says First Nations not consulted

Surrey City Councillor Brenda Locke wants immediate suspension of city’s policing transition process

Province announces two new sites for future Surrey schools

South Newton site cost $18M, while Redwood Heights location cost $25.5M

VIDEO: Feds look to help 126 Canadians quarantined in China for coronavirus

China has confirmed more than 4,500 cases of the new virus, with more than 100 deaths

Party bus door fault for years ahead of Langley woman’s death: Coroner

Tuesday report classifed Chelsea James’ death accidental, but was critical of bus inspection process

Sap thief taps Saanich park maple trees, faces hefty fine

One tree found with four taps in Mount Doug Park

B.C. reports first coronavirus in Vancouver region

First patient visited Wuhan, China, reported symptoms

Victoria resident says WestJet employee uttered racist comment, refused to let her on plane

Customer claims she was told ‘You guys can’t handle your alcohol’ by WestJet employee

Bystander who tried to help dog being attacked not liable for its death: B.C. tribunal

Owner of dog killed tried to get $5,000 in damages from man who tried to save it

INFOGRAPHIC: See how fast your B.C. city grew in 2019

The province’s fastest-growing municipalities were located on Vancouver Island

Landowner hearings begin for Trans Mountain expansion in Alberta

Detailed route talks start in Spruce Grove, in B.C. communities soon

Alessia Cara to host and perform at 2020 Juno Awards

Multi-platinum Canadian singer-songwriter also up for six awards, including Artist of the Year

Most Read