Who was it that said a true test of a relationship is a couple’s ability to share a welder?
Probably, no one. But if it were a test, Racine couple Dustin Nord and Caitlin Callahan passed it with flying colors. Well, mostly.
The fruits of that partnership will be evident at this year’s annual A Chair Affair, when each of their hand-crafted chairs will go up for auction for the benefit of the Boys & Girls Club of Rochester.
“There were some tough moments,” Callahan laughs, reflecting an all’s-well-that-ends-well mood despite some occasionally tense moments working together in Nord’s metal shop.
“It was test of patience,” Nord concurred.
In the 14 years since it began, A Chair Affair has become one of Rochester’s premier fundraising galas, raising money that accounts for 20 percent of the Boys & Girls Club’s annual budget. In that time, hundreds of locally made chairs have been auctioned off.
Last year, the event raised $305,000 for the nonprofit, and this year, organizers are shooting for $335,000 by selling off 40 chairs made by local artisans.
Nord, 34, has donated to the Boys & Girls Club as both a scrap metal artist and chef. He was among a trio of chefs who raised $6,800 last year, auctioning off 10-course meals that were made at the winner’s home. Nord also has created and donated chairs the last three years.
Having been raised in the country, Nord never went to a Boys & Girls club growing up, but he is a big believer in the cause it serves.
“It’s always fun to make something out of nothing,” said Nord about the chairs he has made. “Essentially, I take a pile of junk that would be hauled to a scrapyard, and I make a functional piece of furniture for a very good cause.”
Callahan said Nord’s creative side stood out from the moment they met and is what drew her to him.
“I think the passion that is always in a creative person always comes out,” Callahan said. “I mean, it fuels a relationship. It fuels you.”
This year, Callahan, 29, decided she too wanted to make a chair for the benefit. Nord, who has a metal shop on his Racine property, taught Callahan how to weld.
Welding means lighting up a torch. It means fire. Getting singed is an unavoidable consequence of welding. So, while Nord was used to the “soft burns” of the work, Callahan wasn’t as prepared to pay that price.
“He gets burned. It doesn’t bother him,” Callahan said. “But it really bothers me.”
So when she worked, Callahan often was dressed from head to toe in welding hood and fire-protecting leathers, reminding Nord of the character from the movie “Texas Chain Saw Massacre.”
“We had to share the (welder), so it was a little frustrating,” Nord said. “And of course, we had waited until just about the last moment (to finish the chairs). So the pressure was on.”
But both met the deadline. Nord calls his chair, made of shovels and parts from an old truck, the “Rural Relaxer.” Callahan christened hers the “Chippendale Twist.”
Callahan said that, overall, the experience was a positive one, and she would definitely do it again.
“Thankfully, I have this creative person in my life, and he has encouraged me to be more creative,” she said. “So jumping into that is probably the best feeling that I’ve taken away from it.”
What: A Chair Affair, the annual benefit for the Rochester Boys & Girls Club of Rochester.
When: Saturday, Feb. 27. VIP reception begins at 5 p.m. General reception at 6 p.m.
Where: Rochester International Event Center, 7333 Airport View Drive SW
Tickets: Sold out, but a new feature of this event will be themed after-parties that begin at 9:30 p.m. and will be held at Cambria Gallery, La Vetta and Studio 324.