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During Reunion, an artist thanks a machinist

In June, Kelly Kruger ’14 accompanied her mother, Sarah Daniels ’77, to Reunion. While on campus, Kruger sought out Peter Beach, a professional machinist who is based in the Bates physics department.

Beach wasn’t in. But there was a blackboard outside his office, so Kruger wrote him a message in chalk:

“Hi Peter, my mom (’77) and I dropped by hoping to catch you say hello. We’re only here for Reunion this weekend & sorry we missed you. We still display ceramics on the beautiful stands that you made for me! Hope that you are well and I hope to see you when I come back for my Reunion in 2019! Have a great summer. — Kelly Kruger ’14”

Back in Kruger’s senior year, the studio art major had asked the machinist for help because she needed what he specialized in doing: making just the right tool for your project.

Beach’s main job is creating and repairing specialized equipment for labs, from crafting small posts, clamps or brackets to the months-long task of creating an enclosure for Associate Professor of Physics Nathan Lundblad’s atomic physics lab. He works out of the Carnegie Science Machine Shop.

Professional machinist Peter Beach discusses an upcoming project with a professor outside his Carnegie Science shop. (Phyllis Graber Jensen/Bates College)

The job requires a lot of creativity. “The designing for a specific purpose, that’s most fun part, Beach said. “It’s a playground, basically.”

Sometimes the specific purpose is a student’s senior thesis project — once, he built a water tank for a student who was trying to simulate baseball trajectories. But, as Kruger’s note suggests, he’s not limited to the physics department.

Kelly Kruger ’14

Kruger had created tableware sets for her senior thesis, crafting stoneware cups, bowls, and plates to showcase the intersection of beauty and functionality. She wanted to display some of the work on stands. But stands that worked aesthetically with her pieces, she soon realized, were hard to come by.

Beach was happy to step in.

Kruger sketched some ideas of what she wanted, and she and Beach met several times to work out the details. Beach then created the stands, cutting out shapes with a bandsaw and sanding the steel until it was smooth.

The thesis was displayed in the Bates College Museum of Art in spring 2014, Beach’s stands helping the ceramics stand out.

Bates professional machinist Peter Beach crafted stands to hold ceramics that Kelly Kruger ’14 created for her senior thesis.

Kruger still keeps some of the pieces in her apartment in San Francisco, where she works as an event planner. She’s hoping to find shared studio space where she can “throw” pottery.

She still has the stands too.

“I just think he is such a great part of my senior thesis,” Kruger said. “His willingness to take time out of his day and make a final product that I will have forever is a huge thing for me. I hope he recognizes how great that is.”