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  • Charlie Plant

Travels with Charlie: Cranes, Benches and Bowls

This is Ameera Haadee – Oakland’s MetWest HS graduate, Harbor Freight Fellow in welding, 2019-2020. And welding isn’t the half of it . . . .

Elliot Washor interviewed her and we both were blown away that this young lady was now in training to be a - HEAVY EQUIPMENT OPERATOR!! Like the big cranes that build the BIG buildings! She has been training up in Sacramento and she has been told by the pros that "she has the touch."

She is so awesome, and full of joy. She loves it. She had no clue this was in store for her until her junior year when she started hanging out in Hannah Mintz's Maker Space at the school. Her older brother, a senior when she was a junior and extremely skilled at giving me, the principal, BAD attitude, started working in the Maker Space and his whole attitude changed. In fact, he was behind the creation of this bench as a going away gift to me when I left the school. The real gift was the look of pride, and warmth on his face when it was presented to me.


Hannah Mintz’s passion for building sparked a passion in Ameera, and other girls in the school. The girls ruled the Maker Space!! Here are three of her proteges sitting on their creation, with Cary Latham (Met Providence, Peace St. Class 2000) in the MetWest garden in May of 2017.

The spark Hannah ignited in Ameera led her to welding classes at Laney College which led to her Harbor Freight Fellowship with welder Deborah “Day” Pollini at the old American Steel facility in West Oakland which led her to heavy equipment which led her to Sacramento to train on the big ones!! This is Day and Fellow Yusuf Moore in her shop.

Only 1% of America’s on-site construction workers are women. HFFI hopes to play its own small part in changing that . . . .


One last thought . . . . . . .

“I had come to feel that real beauty, and the principle for creating it, lay in things made for everyday use . . . things that emerge without artifice . . .” Soetsu Yanagi, The Beauty of Everyday Things

The two benches above, Day’s welding projects, even the buildings Ameera’s cranes will build, are not works of art per se, but they embody true beauty. Their beauty is deeper than art. The work of the trades is intrinsically connected to the economical, effective creation of utility. It is a beauty in form and function, in the painstaking and careful attention to purpose and execution. Trades work connects to our soul – shop class as soulcraft, to quote political philosopher and motorcycle mechanic Mathew Crawford.

Here is a bowl that I glazed for my wife and I - by no means a sterling example of the potter’s trade. BUT, it has the beauty of the attention of my hands in its creation, and the beauty of usefulness that only becomes more profound over time.

Take care everyone.


Charlie Plant Coordinator, Harbor Freight Fellows Program

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