For the second interview of this series, I sat down to talk to Dylan Paczay, a resilient toolmaker, crafter and musician. Born and living in Canada, Dylan trained as a tool and die maker at Conestoga College, making tools, machinery parts, and crafting and manufacturing metal. Currently, he works between Belwood, Ontario where he runs his own workshop, and Elora, Ontario, a buzzing haven for artists and musicians that has informed much of his work and life. Here, he is developing a sustainable living project with the hope of becoming fully self-sufficient in the future.
This interview dives deep into many topics from working with materials taken directly from the Earth and creating from a place of authenticity, to electromagnetic fields and developing a harmonious relationship with our surroundings.
Where do you work? What makes this place important for your creative process?
I often work indoors, working with metal and oil, but being in my workshop too long can be very isolating from living things of all kinds. However, one day a week I work with children as part of the Guelph Outdoor School, and this working environment is fully outside. I teach them in the way of hand tools, but I’m also learning with them, being taught by nature. I can’t help but be reminded of the living nature of the outdoor world as the wind brushes against my cheek. I feel blessed to work in a diversity of places.
How would you describe your creative process? Do you use certain mediums/techniques to develop your creative ideas?
I have always loved the mystery and the phenomena of the world and how it works. From a young age, I wasn’t satisfied with what I was being taught in school. I loved to dive deep, looking through the books in the library, wondering about engines, and properties of materials. I had this need to understand. From this place, my creative process is born out of function – it is less of what do I want to create? And more of, what do I want to achieve?
Often an idea involves a system or a functioning of multiple parts that work together. When numerous parts need to be made, I like to be directed by function. So my creative process is largely driven by systems that I want to be a part of my everyday life. For example: if I want to be able to meet people on the street then I might start thinking about a bench. On my last bench project, I wanted to include something that would be a conversation starter so I made a triangular, internally facing bench with a glass ball in the centre that had two miniature scenes inside. I blew the glass at the local glass studio, and for the scenes inside I opened up a Thursday Nights Art and Crafts group. I talked with the people who joined me: we made one scene from the future, infatuated with technology; and on the other side a future that was in harmony with nature. The purpose for this glass ball as a centre piece at this triangular bench was to spark conversation. It was born out of function.
"I have always loved the mystery and the phenomena of the world and how it works. From a young age, I wasn’t satisfied with what I was being taught in school. I had this need to understand. From this place, my creative process is born out of function – it is less of what do I want to create? And more of, what do I want to achieve?"
What is the main subject of your inspiration?
I have been wondering for a few months now, where does motivation come from? What are the sustainable sources of motivation I can draw on for my work? I’ve come to believe that I'm quite inspired by that warmth of companionship. I’m inspired by inspiring a way of life where we can feel this kind of bio-resonance, not just with loved ones or animals, but also with the food and plants that sustain us, extending this bio-resonance to the soil and everything that we rely on for living a healthy life. I believe every being has a preference and by listening, by being in tune with the soil for example, we can learn what it needs to be healthy and thus we can reap the benefits.
It really motivates me to work hard to create this mutually beneficial relationship with the natural world. Nature is extremely abundant: you grow one plant and it creates seeds for thousands.
What are you working on at the moment?
Recently, I have been planning the creation of instruments with novel scales: custom notes, and notes derived largely from the world of mathematics. It’s beautiful how proportions can translate to space or tone. I have been planning these on paper, and so far I have made a set of panpipes, an upright bass, and I’m thinking about a tongue drum. A smartphone really helps! It makes tuning these pipes of metal into a wizard’s practice! It’s still a project I’m gearing up for…
What does “sense of place” mean to you? Is this concept present in your work?
I'm aware that everything comes from the Earth, even all of our manmade magic. For me, sense of place is honouring the living environment that we are in. I don’t yet feel that I have permanent roots with an area. Nevertheless, I’m building and growing the capacity to listen to the places that we are in. Just yesterday I was reminded by a friend to acknowledge the forest before we walk into it, and how different our awareness is after making this offering: taking time and making a gesture to acknowledge our presence within this other living thing.
I hope that all the solutions to life’s myriad of problems will one day become as diverse as all the places that there are with people living. I hope that people’s creative outputs become more in tune with their surroundings. I would love to live in a world that is in tune with its sense of place. Currently, this is present when I am around The Dome, which is my sustainable living project in Elora. For me, sense of place means doing things that make sense for a particular place. The artist Charles Gilchrist sums this up nicely: “The more I look, the more I listen. The more I listen, the more it tells me.”
Are there elements of your work that connect with or are inspired by the natural world?
I make things of all different kinds and I love knowing where things come from. Any product is raised from the Earth at the beginning, and if at all possible, I like to raise the material right from the source myself so as to preserve some semblance of the living spirit. I can start whispering it into its final being right from the start. It’s really nice to be able to inform the material what it is to become in the future. It’s not always feasible, but from a resilience perspective, using material direct from their sources would allow me to continue my craft even if international trade systems were to shut down. We have seen hints of this already with the global crisis in 2020!
Does the natural world have a part to play in your everyday life?
The natural world is the world, and everything else is artifice, created by man. I think this is partly why we sleep so that automatic processes are able to rebuild and recuperate in our bodies. I believe our bodies are part of the natural world and we are blessed to be able to interface with this world so intimately.
From being a part of the natural world - being outside or being in our bodies - I feel coherence, sanity, vitality all come from this interaction. When I go outside and communicate with living things, whether it’s feeling the wind on my face or seeing the trees, I recognise that these are all life sources of vitality that we can share. Without the natural world, I don’t think I would be sane or coherent! I think it’s dangerous to just be surrounded by artifice because it’s not whole or complete. Every cell of the body is nourished by the electromagnetic fields emanating from the Earth. Living systems of all kinds have weak electromagnetic fields. The Institute of HeartMath is finding that every heartbeat is giving off an electromagnetic field that spreads out at the speed of light in all directions, and this is registered in other people’s brainwaves. Like biological fields, modern systems also radiate electromagnetic information, information which influences and is registered in each of our cells. From a scientific perspective, the natural world is training our bodies to be harmonious to work properly within this world of information. The natural world is vital.
"The natural world is the world, and everything else is artifice, created by man. I believe our bodies are part of the natural world and we are blessed to be able to interface with this world so intimately."
Do you have a favourite artist or creative individual? Someone who has artistically inspired your work?
I am so grateful for the work of other artists. I want to mention the Funga Drummers and Gary Diggins in Guelph, Ontario. The Funga Drummers are a drumming group inspired by West African rhythm. They are a group who brings the spirit of rhythm and togetherness into their performances. Gary Diggins is a facilitator and “sound wizard!” Together with the Thunder Drummers, I have experienced concerts that feel like we are all involved in creating the music, which is surely something special.
I used to participate in The Big Beat in Guelph, produced by Gary and the Funga Drummers. Aligned with the solstices and equinoxes, The Big Beat brought dancing, drumming and dreaming together. Everyone was invited to add to the sound experience, bring their own drums, or dance, and then lay down at the end of the performance. Through the magic of digeridoo, myself and multiple others were able to cast a calming dream spell across the audience/performers. These are very inclusive musical environments.
Another amazing person is Kevin Breit, a guitarist who used to live in Elora. He is a fantastic character and very inspiring. He can play with a human’s emotions in incredible ways. I encourage his work to be checked out!
Going back thousands of years, I'm also very inspired by Pythagoras and stories about him hanging around the blacksmith shop, finding the different rings on metal, and developing his mathematical set of musical tones and scales that we still continue to use today.
What would your top piece of advice be for creatives navigating their way in the arts industry today?
Be authentic. It takes a lot of work to hold onto something that isn't your genuine self, or that doesn't fit with your deeper identity. As creatives, our work is fuelled by the vital energy we supply, and great work often demands great effort. The right projects return to the artist at least as much energy as it took to create so it’s very important to find what is authentic for us as individuals. The more we align ourselves with our ever-evolving self, the more our way of life is true to who we are, and the more our creations become natural expressions of our truth. When we are living authentically, what we are serious about creating, we will end up creating. When we touch in with our true self, who we really are, the more those creations already exist. In this way, we can tune into a timeline that spans our whole lifetime, reaching a state where all of our life’s work is present.
Do you have a message that you hope to give to the world?
I feel very inspired by ideas of resilience and harmony, and I would like to share this with the world. We all have many things or people that we depend on for life, and if we can bring these things closer to home then we are developing more of a community with the place where we live and the people we live with. This is important for two reasons:
1. It is fulfilling to be in a conscious relationship with the things that keep us alive. It’s important to have a true connection with those things we depend on as this feeds us on a deeper level; it nourishes our souls.
2. It is an important part of our wellbeing and survival. It is only a matter of time before we will need to remember the old ways of how to do things ourselves again, without a reliance on the morally bereft systems that we have created.
Resilience and harmony are two key words to help us develop a more conscious way of being.
Anything else you would like to add?
As an artist, so much of my work is about fulfilling a purpose, not making a form. For example: creating a chair is for the experience of relaxation and comfort. It is not fully about its form or body – the chair is almost a body for the idea of providing human support and comfort. So when I am using a material, such as metal, I hope that I am fulfilling a good purpose for it, tuning in to the ‘why’ of the piece, not simply ‘a piece of art.’ But of course, this includes the great purpose that is bringing our inner world into the outside world through art.
See more of Dylan's work on Instagram @o.phi.ra
All images: Artist's Own