A Conversation with … Alan Olick President, General Plating
The owner of General Plating Co. in Los Angeles volunteers his time with students from Pasadena Art Center College of Design during the West Coast Bright Design scholarship contest, teaching them about plating and surface finishing.
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Alan Olick met Trinidad Gonzalez and Kashiram Patel while working at a jewelry company, and they later teamed up to start General Plating Co. in Los Angeles. Olick also volunteers his time with students from Pasadena Art Center College of Design during the West Coast Bright Design scholarship contest, teaching them about plating and surface finishing. We caught up with Olick after the most recent Bright Design contest, where he always earns praise from students for his patience and helpfulness.
PF: You are heavily involved in the West Coast Bright Design program with the students. How did you get so involved, and how much time do you spend with each student?
AO: MFASC was encouraged by Tony Revier, the NASF president at the time, to get California involved like the College of Creative Studies in Detroit. We made a presentation to the Pasadena Art Center College of Design which is the No. 1 art college in the U.S. We made our proposal and offered three $5,000 scholarships to students for the merits of the projects of choice. We believe that we need to educate the teachers and students about all the possibilities of metal finishing in their everyday designs. The reward for our industry is that we take away the stigma that we are one of the causes of environmental destruction. Contrary to that, we train and implement safety in every metal finishing shop that is a member of our group. Each term, we work with 10 to 15 art students through the 10-week term. I work with each student from two to six hours.
PF: You seem to get a kick out of teaching the students all there is to know about plating. What’s been the funniest or most unusual episode in working with a student?
AO: The students are artists and many times they choose to plate non-conductors like macaroni, noodles, trees, leather, glass, rocks, paper, wax and 3-D models made of starch and wood that has been cut with a laser.
PF: You work with a lot of interior designers, artists and architects to turn their imagination into reality. How did you come to focus on the art world, and how is it to work with such creative minds?
AO: I started out in life to be an industrial arts teacher and ended up in the costume jewelry business for the first 16 years of my career. I quickly had to learn to work with artists and designers, one of whom became my wife of 34 years. For 45 years I have worked with artists, designers, architects, builders and engineers, and have hardly ever told any of them that it cannot be done. I love to encourage all of them and it is always fascinating to see where we end up.
PF: What’s the best piece of advice you were given, either personally or professionally, and who gave it to you?
AO: My machine shop teacher in high school said that without desire, passion, vision and most of all perseverance, the results will suffer. This holds true for everything we do, not just art.
PF: What did you want to be when you grew up?
AO: My dad was a building contractor and he convinced me to work with him from the time I was eight years old. He paid me well, worked me hard and gave me lots of encouragement. I wanted to be a shop teacher in a high school, and wanted time to enjoy my hobbies. My second job was flipping hamburgers at McDonalds with many of my friends just so we could be together after school. I still worked with my dad until I left college.
PF:If you had $100,000 to give to a charity, which one would it be?
AO: My wife and I have been involved in theater for many years and we have always supported theater in Los Angeles, so I would use it to support the arts, theater and sculpture.
PF: What was your first car, and what is your dream car?
AO: My first car was a new 1963 Pontiac Bonneville with a 389 engine that my dad gave me when I turned 16 and got my license on my birthday. I had my first accident on Halloween night in Bob’s Big Boy parking lot. My dream car is a Porsche Panorama with the biggest engine available.
Get to know Alan
Family: wife Sandy and son Oliver, 20, dog Auggie, a cockatoo, and six cats.
Favorite hobby: snow skiing, golfing, bicycling, and used to be going to the Lakers games
Favorite movie: 5 Easy Pieces
What’s playing in your car CD/radio: I enjoy jazz and really like listening to all the Sirius jazz stations.
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