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Spring Quarterly '14: On the Job with Eco-Plumber

Posted on 14 April 2014

Spring is a time for cleaning, inside and out! For our Spring Quarterly we spent a day on the job with Joshua DeParrie of Eco-Plumber. Joshua is a professional plumber and Jiu-Jitsu blackbelt.  Between troubleshooting pipe problems, he schooled us on conceptions of balance and flow, reviewed our Spring Collection, and squeezed in this Q+A:

How would you describe your work and professional background?

I would say I’m an artist, and my sculptural medium is the pipes used in plumbing. An aspect of that is my commitment to environmental sustainability. I was trained in the Oregon Apprenticeship program in Bandon, Oregon, where I completed my apprenticeship out on the Oregon coast. I grew up in Portland, born and raised. I’ve been doing this for about 10 years.

Tell me about your company.

Eco-Plumber is a plumbing company committed to responsibility. My business partner Tyson and I both view our work as art to some degree and we both have a strong commitment within our business goals to be responsible both environmentally and socially in our business practices.


What does that environmental and social commitment look like in action?

There are projects we pass up on - plumbing a fast food restaurant might be an example. There are certain products that we are more inclined to encourage people to use over others. Our ideal is to simplify plumbing systems for maximum efficiency, so we encourage tankless water heaters, for example. The type of piping we like to use is Aquatherm which is a sustainable type of pipe. It’s a plastic made from natural sources and it’s food grade plastic so it doesn’t leach DHPs into your water system like most plastics do. And copper is very unsustainable, we’re running out of copper, I’ll use it, but just when I have to. We also try to support social causes that we feel strongly about. Our company is more of a cooperative, neither of us is a boss, and when we hire labor we don’t use hierarchical terminology and try to be as egalitarian as possible. If we expand we want to keep it as a cooperative, we want partners not workers or slaves! We’re dreamers as plumbers go, but we hope we’re in line with what a lot of other people are dreaming of too.

Do you think that mindfulness comes back to your Jiu-Jitsu? You’ve been practicing for quite a while.

Yeah, for years - almost half my life! I’d definitely say that’s true for me and the two are connected. Tyson is a Philosophy major so he’s well-tested in self-reflection too! The form I practice is Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu which is a hybrid from Japanese Jiu-Jitsu. The literal translation is “the way of gentleness” or “the way of allowing.” The idea is to allow whatever force that is coming against you to come, or even encourage it at times, and then take it to a different place where it’s not harming yourself. It can be done in a way that doesn’t harm your attacker as well, which in my opinion gives it a huge advantage in many self-defense situations. But it’s not just about self-defense, for me it’s much deeper than that. It is an effective means of self-defense, but that doesn’t define it entirely.

So what defines Jiu-Jitsu for you?

The succinct word that describes Jiu-Jitsu for me is “flow.” The idea is not to resist. I apply Jiu-Jitsu to all of life. If there is some kind of struggle or conflict in my life I try to take the way of Jiu-Jitsu rather than tighten up and try to be rigid in my resistance to it. On an emotional level or others, there are so many ways to apply its lessons.

One lesson that I’ve learned recently is that you’re much less likely to find the solution to your problem if you think you know the answer. Too often we think we have the solution, and all it takes is to get out of the same pattern of thinking to realize “No, wait, the answer is over here, something completely different!” Flexibility of thinking, it can manifest in flexibility of your body and whatnot.

Do you feel that flexibility in thinking directly informs your work?

Jiu-Jitsu and plumbing are very interconnected for me. In plumbing you want the simplest solution possible, and Jiu-Jitsu is similar in that regard. My Jiu-Jitsu professor is jaw-droppingly simple in his solutions to everything he does. He’ll open your eyes to something new, show you just one movement and blow everyone away! That kind of simplicity is what we’re trying to achieve.

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