The Plumber's Gloom

Notes on The Plumber's Gloom Plans Flawdrawing
and The Plumber's Gloom Paintings

In 1971, we bought 14 acres of north slope and an abandoned one-room cabin smack in the middle of Mendocino County. The cabin (which had been the LaRue School in the 1920's) had no functioning electrical or plumbing systems. Since it was to be our idyllic home in the woods, it was a foregone conclusion that we would re-wire and re-plumb the place.

    So, using our ever-diminishing building fund, I bought several do-it-yourself manuals, a few tools and proceeded to do the job. It should be noted that I had absolutely no training or skills in electrical or plumbing matters nor as a child had I been exposed to any role models who could have prepared me for the task at hand.


The Plumbing

I carefully mapped out the various fixtures, pipes and joints that would be needed. I hand-soldered all 96 joints. After about 3 months of crawling under the house through spiderwebs, packrat nests and rattlesnake homes and lots of sawing, drilling, cutting and soldering, the day finally came to hook up the water supply to the new plumbing system.

Of the 96 joints, 48 leaked!

The Roofing

To fully appreciate my state of mind at the time, you should know that a couple days before the plumbing disaster I had, with the help of my friend John Kessel, completely re-roofed the house with corrugated 2 ' x 10 ' sheets of corrugated galvanized metal roofing.

    When we stepped back to admire our work, we suddenly realized that we had incorrectly overlapped all the metal sheets and instead of making our roof rainproof we thought we might have just put hundreds of new holes in it and in the several hundred dollars worth of roofing.!


I was so upset I stopped all work on the place and spent the next two weeks on the banks of Outlet Creek drawing and painting. The paintings were intended to relieve my frustration and to depict how awful and helpless I felt.

I made about 8 small acrylic paintings. Several are of the scene at the Creek with very unpleasant little creatures walking by. The landscape was painted as if it were a paint-by-numbers kit to add to the creepy feeling. Here is the painting I did to commemorate the Tragic Plumbersgloom Event. The figure on the roof is Kessel, the guy freaking out inside is the official Nada Farm plumber.

"Plumber's Gloom" acrylic on panel, 10" x 12" (approx.), 1972.
Collection of Diana Zlotnick

The Plumber's Gloom Plans

Some time passed and with the help of friends, the plumbing finally worked. I had to resolder most of the joints and epoxy those that I could no longer reach or dismantle easily. Once the plumbing worked and I could begin to forget my recent construction nightmare, I noticed the sheet of paper I had used to map the plumbing system and which had also served as my parts list.

    It had been with me in the pocket of my overalls throughout the installation fiasco. By now it was heavily wrinkled and stained. I decided to celebrate the flaws in it (and thereby announce the giant flaw of the whole plumbing installation) and made what has become one of my favorite flaw drawings: "The Plumber's Plan Flaw Drawing."
The Plumber's Plan Flaw Drawing    Flaws Gallery   Flaws Resources