by Natasha von Kaenel
Carmen Gambino is something of a metal snob. While The Crucible offers classes in many different industrial medias – including glass, ceramics, wood, and leather – you will only find Carmen working in disciplines that deal with metal. For Carmen, metal is a “superior building material,” as its composition is more consistent than wood, and it doesn’t shatter like glass.
Carmen first heard about The Crucible long before he set foot in the building, when he was still living out on the East Coast. An avid cyclist and builder of touring bikes, Carmen started volunteering in the Bike Shop soon after he moved to the Bay Area, joining the Crucible faculty as a Bike Shop instructor after only a few months. Currently, he teaches in the Machine Shop, and is the Department Head of Oxy-acetylene and Arc Welding.
What do you do outside of The Crucible?
Before I left Cleveland, my business was making custom bicycle frames, trailers, and racks. I just moved my shop here in October, and I’m slowly getting my studio set up so I can continue doing that here. I also recently procured an industrial sewing machine, and I am trying to get into making bags and panniers for touring bikes.
What’s your favorite thing you have ever made?
Probably my touring bike. I made it 100% and that’s a very intimate thing. A touring bike is something that you spend thousands of hours on, eight hours a day. You are in that saddle and you are riding it and feeling how it handles. Every little change in geometry in the frame effects how it rides. You just become one with the bike and it can take you thousands and thousands of miles.
Where have you toured?
I’ve got something like 40,000 miles under my belt. I’ve done the entirety of the East Coast twice. I’ve road from Cleveland out West, then back. I rode from Cleveland to Austin the long way, rode around the great lakes – both directions – and a lot of weekend few hundred mile trips in the Northeast Ohio area.
What’s something you saw at The Crucible you will never forget?
After Hot Couture was over, we tore down the stage on the last night, and Michael Sturtz started reheating cold pizza with the fire cloud. The pizza was on the floor, and he shot fire balls from the cloud on the ceiling. I will never forget that.
Do you remember a moment that was particularly impactful for you?
I was due to move to North Carolina last October. I was working three jobs, trying to save a bunch of money. We were doing Summer Camps, and throughout the course of summer, just all of the involvement with the instructors, getting to see the creativity of the kids, and their transition from the beginning to the end of the week – that actually changed my mind on moving and made me stay here.
What effect do you think The Crucible has on the community?
Everybody is happy when they come here, everybody has fun. It’s really a magical place, so few people get the opportunity to play with this kind of equipment or have access to this industrial media. Being able to pay a few hundred dollars to come in and get a welding class, or learn how to run a machine, or blow glass – no one has access to that.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
Actually, when I was in fourth grade, I wanted to own my own bike company. I was going call it Nemrac Cycles, which is just Carmen backwards. Somewhere my mom has a picture of some badly drawn BMX bike that says ‘Nemrac’ on the down tube.
So you are living the dream.
Ironically, I am.