Life after oil: Airdrie man finds new direction after lay off
Thursday, Aug 13, 2015 06:00 am
With his many tattoos, he doesn’t exactly look like what most people picture when they think of a quilter, but Airdrie’s Jason Blackmore has found a new hobby as a longarm quilter after being laid off from an oil patch job in March.
Blackmore, 40, has taken his skills as a designer of gas plants and turned them to quilting designs, helping his wife, Sharon, 41, with her business, Love Shack Quilts, while looking for another job.
“I worked in engineering offices as a piping designer,” Blackmore said. “I work with AutoCad, Smartplant, stuff like that, designing the plant on the computer. The company that I worked for starting laying off late October, early November of 2014. They were already feeling (the downturn in the oil patch).”
The company Blackmore worked for was a mid-sized Calgary-based oil and gas business.
“It was the first time ever in my life I’ve been laid off,” he said. “In the 2008/2009 recession, I made it through that because I left a bigger company to go to a company where I’d previously worked. I was doing a support role and I wanted to get back into a designer role and that move actually saved me from getting laid off, even though it was for a lot less money.”
Blackmore has been hunting for a new job but they are few and far between in an industry rocked by declining revenues. The Canadian Association of Oilwell Drilling Contractors predicts up to 25,000 jobs in the oil and gas industry will be lost in 2015.
“I sort of saw it coming and started sending my resume out in February of this year,” he said. “I’ve had one interview since I’ve been laid off. That’s it. There’s nothing. Every day I look at the news and it’s more doom and gloom for the oil industry. It’s not going to get any better any time soon.”
Faced with this reality, and a lot of spare time on his hands, Blackmore agreed to help Sharon when she decided to purchase a computerized longarm quilting machine. Many quilters bring their work to a longarm quilter because the quilts are too big to stitch on a home machine or they want a specific, custom design.
Sharon already has one longarm machine, which she manually manipulates, but a computerized machine could double their output and speed up the process for quilters who don’t want custom work. The system the Blackmores purchased is called the Intelliquilter.
“She kind of suckered me in with the talk of the computer,” Blackmore admits, “because I’m a techie and I do drafting as my career and you can do (quilting) designs on a computer aided design (CAD)-based program and then load them into that computer and have the machine stitch them. I thought it was kind of cool and ‘I’m in.’
“The quilting part is not that appealing to me because it’s nothing I’ve ever done. Until I met Sharon, quilting was your grannie taking a sewing needle and putting a bunch of patches of old fabric together and that was it.”
While it’s a volunteer position for now, Blackmore can see himself doing this full-time and joining Love Shack Quilts.
“Part of the thing that convinced me it was a good idea was that Sharon was no longer working in the automotive industry and working full-time doing custom quilting,” he said. “I’ve seen the dollar value come back from her work. There is money to be made in it. The hope is that this machine is booked solid six or eight weeks ahead, and then, as far as I’m concerned, it’s a career change.”
There are perks to working at home, Blackmore said, including spending time with Sharon and their blended family of three small children.
The couple is hoping to eventually build up a library of custom designs, called pantograms, that they can offer clients. Turnaround time on quilts created on the Intelliquilter is approximately four to six weeks, according to Sharon. Custom work has a longer turnaround time because of the amount of work involved.
Blackmore said whether the quilt is stitched by the computer, or by Sharon, the quality of work is important.
“No matter if I’m doing that quilting or I’m back out in the workforce doing computer drafting, I have high standards for the quality of the work that I do,” he said. “I’m a stickler, a perfectionist.”
For more information about Love Shack Quilts, visit them at loveshackquilts.com