Nader Parsarad’s workshop on the Old Sambro Road is reflective of another era. Here the Iranian immigrant practices his unique trade of an artisan blacksmith with tools he makes by hand, forging metal over a fire.
Nader came to Canada in 2001 on an artists’ trip to Toronto, sponsored by the local Iranian community. He visited friends in Halifax and immediately liked it. “I hadn’t planned to stay; I had a successful business at home but it was routine. When I came here it was a big challenge for me.” He appreciates the community’s size and found people friendly.
Nader was attracted to this work when he wandered into a blacksmith shop as a child. “I was lucky. This is everything to me.” He studied the trade in Iran and moved on to learn more – to Malaysia, Turkey and then eight years as an apprentice in Cyprus. He could keep learning forever, he says, but knew it was time to work. Most challenging is to create a unique design. “Bending, forging, welding, fabricating is the fun part,” he explains. “Sometimes when I’m sleeping an idea comes to me and I will sketch it. If I don’t do that I know I will forget it the next day.”
I feel this is my real home. I don’t want to move anywhere.
Nader is also a licensed jeweler, but mainly makes railings and gates – some based on Persian designs. He proudly points to a framed newspaper story about his work for FireWorks Gallery jewelry store on Barrington Street. In 2013 Nader co-designed a spectacular 1,100-kilogram ironwork sculpture – a huge diamond, surrounded by lotus leaves, topped with a dragon –that was hoisted by crane to the roof.
Despite having little English, he opened a shop with a partner soon after he settled here. “I am good with body language. I didn’t know English names of tools but I would explain it and draw it on the paper and people would understand.” One day a customer mentioned studying English at school so Nader went along and became a student at the Halifax Immigrant Learning Centre (HILC) – later to join with the Metropolitan Immigrant Settlement Association (MISA) to form ISANS. “I studied for four months every day. It was wonderful. It was big-time help. Instead of learning from the book they were teaching me about problems for newcomers – how to talk to 911, how to talk to doctors.” He made friends in class, some of whom he still sees.
Nader lives with Dena, his dog. He has friends here in the Iranian community and is a member of the Maritime Blacksmith Association. He has vacationed in Japan. “I feel this is my real home. I don’t want to move anywhere.” Nader hopes that more people learn to appreciate using metal. He’d like to build a sheet metal shop large enough to bid on government jobs. “I love this work; if you don’t love it you cannot grow. You create something beautiful from raw material.”
Nader still looks at the photograph of his HILC English class and remains thankful for ISANS. “It’s a wonderful, wonderful organization, very friendly and the teachers are professional. They know exactly what newcomers need and they focus on those things.”