William Livingston finding balance through family and art

“I started making things as a way to get out of the house. I wanted an outlet for all the creative energy that I have.”

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William Livingston discovered that chasing a big promotion or working harder is not always the best decision — sometimes, you need to take a step back and do what you love.

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Wanting to find time for himself and his children, Livingston discovered his real passion involved working with his hands and teaching.

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The 47-year-old describes his primary job as: “Taking care of my kids.” But when the kids are at school, Livingston retreats to his studio workshop in the Saskatoon Makerspace, making garden art, home decor and some custom fabrication.

Makerspace is a non-profit that offers studio space to people who want to build and make things — kind of like a gym membership for creatives.

Alisha Esmail, left, and Tao Zhou label coffee in Road Coffee’s studio at the Saskatoon Makerspace, a non-profit community workspace in Riversdale. Photo taken in Saskatoon, Aug. 15, 2022.
Alisha Esmail, left, and Tao Zhou label coffee in Road Coffee’s studio at the Saskatoon Makerspace, a non-profit community workspace in Riversdale. Photo taken in Saskatoon, Aug. 15, 2022. Photo by Matt Smith /Saskatoon StarPhoenix

Members can use the Makerspace workshop and tools to work on personal, creative or artistic projects.

Livingston started his career as a plumber, working on construction sites and gradually learning new skills, like pipe fitting and welding.

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“I moved up the chain and started working for larger construction companies. I worked all over the place. I did big projects in the Arctic, Alberta and the mines of Saskatchewan, to name a few,” he said.

Although Livingston was often away from home, he liked the money and constructing things with his hands. The job had a lot of responsibility, but it never stressed him out.

“Until that one day I came home and my own daughter had no idea who I was. I was heartbroken,” Livingston said.

He vowed to make a change. His daughter made him realize what he had been missing.

“After that, I never wanted to work far away from home ever again. My plan was to come back home and start working residential or in-town commercial construction work, while making enough time for my kids. However, when I actually started working those smaller jobs, there was something bothering me.”

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“At the risk of sounding pretentious, while working those smaller jobs I noticed that a lot of the people in the trade just don’t have the same passion for it like they used to. After the housing bubble in 2018, you had a lot of guys coming in, looking to make money. I guess I can’t blame them. I just felt like a lot of the art of the trade has gone missing. Everything became all about selling stuff instead of doing it for the passion of the trade. That bothered me a lot,” Livingston said.

So, he decided to go back to school.

“I enrolled into an excellent mechanical technology program. There I learned to work with all kinds of different machines and tools that I had never used before.”

Livingston never finished his mechanical engineering degree — it became too difficult with both he and his wife in school at the same time — so he decided to drop out during the last quarter of his program and start working again.

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“Even though I tried my best to balance work, school and kids, sometimes you need to swallow that pill and do what is best for your family.”

Livingston upheld his earlier vow to his daughter. He did not go back to work for a large construction company. Instead, he started doing odd jobs in town. But it still felt too commercial. There was still something missing.

Things changed once again when Livingston’s wife found a job with the Catholic School Division, and he was able to stay home with the family.

“I wanted to do something to have a change of pace. So I started doing what I like doing best: making stuff.”

Livingston initially worked in his home, but described it as a disaster.

“I had this big welder that I would set up in my own home and it would make a huge mess every time.”

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Livingston found Makerspace on Facebook and soon acquired a small studio in their 10,000 square-foot workshop. He was able to work on his own personal projects, while also doing custom fabrication for people.

Will Livingston works on his metal flower creations in his workshop at Saskatoon Makerspace.
Will Livingston works on his metal flower creations in his workshop at Saskatoon Makerspace. Photo by Michelle Berg /Saskatoon StarPhoenix

“It is so much fun. I can make cool stuff, but still work with my hands and smash metal together. I really feel like I can be myself and make some money on the side doing it. It has become so busy that it has turned into a second job,” he said.

Livingston says he’s most proud of his metal garden flowers, but there’s also the custom bike rack he made for someone with several e-bikes, and a triceratops bone stand.

“The dinosaur bone stand was for one of the teachers from my wife’s school. He is an amateur paleontologist and he found this massive triceratops bone. I made him a custom stand so he could display it. I was super happy with that.”

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What started as a small side project soon turned into a side business for Livingston. He even registered his workshop activity with the city.

“Making art is my hobby. My primary job is still being a stay-at-home dad, but I am here basically every day. So I guess you can call it a job, but Makerspace feels more like my second home,” Livingston said.

His wealth of experience has prompted Makerspace to ask him to teach two workshops — the blacksmithing and metalworking classes. He says he is always amazed by the types of people who want to learn to work with metal.

“All sorts of people show up to our classes. If I really had to characterize them, I would say that there are a lot of people with specific projects in mind and they want the knowledge to be able to complete those projects. We have a lot of people wanting to work on cars or be able to do stuff around the house, but also high school kids or stay-at-home parents who are looking to learn a new trade.”

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One of the most successful classes being taught at Makerspace is a woodworking course in partnership with the YWCA, specifically aimed at women and nonbinary students.

During the class, the students get to use all sorts of tools. Because of the success of the class, Makerspace is looking to expand the project to metalworking and welding, something that Livingston could be teaching in the future.

Brandon Golding is the manager at the Saskatoon Makerspace, a non-profit community workspace in Riversdale. Photo taken in Saskatoon, Aug. 15, 2022.
Brandon Golding is the manager at the Saskatoon Makerspace, a non-profit community workspace in Riversdale. Photo taken in Saskatoon, Aug. 15, 2022. Photo by Matt Smith /Saskatoon StarPhoenix

Brandon Golding, the manager of Makerspace, says the woodworking world is male-dominated and can be intimidating for some women. He said many who attend the course end up finding jobs through the YWCA’s Women in Trades program.

“We have seen so many women come and discover that they actually love working with wood. We have seen a tremendous success rate with this class,” Golding said.

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While it took Livingston a while to balance his passions, he says it was worth being able to hold on to the things that fill his cup — his family, and his creativity.

The news seems to be flying at us faster all the time. From COVID-19 updates to politics and crime and everything in between, it can be hard to keep up. With that in mind, the Saskatoon StarPhoenix has created an Afternoon Headlines newsletter that can be delivered daily to your inbox to help make sure you are up to date with the most vital news of the day. Click here to subscribe.

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