I’m doing it! Lessons from the life of a woman welder.

Lately, I have been slowly following through on something that I have thought about for a very long time.  That is, putting together my own welding “set up”.  Not a shop yet, but the equipment and space that I need to produce my own metal sculpture. 

My own equipment.  My own space.  My own decisions.  My own ability to make it happen and make it work.  That might not sound very important to you, but having been raised in a traditional home where the women do the women’s work and the men do the men’s work, there were some thought or belief hurdles to be faced by a woman that wanted to do work that is traditionally in the man’s sphere. 

Granted, I have been welding for a very long time now. It has been 20 years, since I first learned my trade.  That in itself was a belief hurdle to be cleared.  I found out that while I was not quite as strong as my dad or my brother, I was still capable of growing some pretty good muscles that enabled me to lift and carry a heck of a lot more than I ever dreamed.  And then there was the feeling that I must surely be letting go of all that was feminine about me in order to go to work in these dirty ratty old clothes and get grease and dust smeared all over my face day in and day out.  Plus, there was the approbation of some of the more elderly and traditional men of the community.  The old Hutterite guys tried to convince me that my place was in the kitchen, but by that point, I could just chuckle at them and grin.  Surprisingly, there were a lot more men though, who thought it was pretty nifty that a chick could do this work.

A piece soon to be a part of a new work of art!

A piece soon to be a part of a new work of art!

Somehow, I started to realize that it just didn’t matter.   I realized that the bulk of what it took to be a welder, besides an eye for your puddle and the coordination to lay down a pretty bead, was between my ears.  It took math, geometry, the ability to measure correctly and draw an accurate plan to build a railing.  It took problem solving skills to figure out how to make a latch or a fix for some strangely configured spaces when making gates. And so on.  Pretty soon, I began to see myself as a decent problem solver.  I realized that being a problem solver, and making things that were so useful, and at times even beautiful was pretty darn fulfilling, too.  More than that, every so often, I was able to design something cool and artistic.

Fast forward to this last year.  We moved away from the family welding shop.  A looong ways away.  Until we moved, all my welding of the last few years had consisted of metal sculpture.  And now, I had no place to weld, let alone all the equipment to make it happen.  I knew I wanted to continue making my sculpture, but I didn’t have any means, so I tried to concentrate on other things, my mixed media, collage, some felting, painting, and so on. 

Suddenly, it was just not enough.  I started to realize I had to find a way to make it happen.  I started to research maker spaces.  They were all too far away and needed a monthly commitment of cash.  A couple of local welders that I got in touch with seemed quite reluctant to rent me space or use of their equipment. I realized that I would have to find a way to do it at home.  I figured I could rig up some tarps under the carport to protect my surroundings.  Ok, one hurdle down.

Then, there was the cost of the equipment I wanted. Yikes!  I had to resign myself to start small.  I looked at a few low cost welders and ended up purchasing a very good little welder at Canadian Tire that was on sale for $200.00 less than regular price.  I needed something to cut sheet metal with, and a bench grinder on sale was provided by a Christmas gift card from my brother.

It was at this point I had my first, “HOLY COW!” moment.  I realized that this might actually happen.  I think now that I still must not have believed, because I had another holy-cow-dance-around-the-laundry-room-and-shake-your-booty moment when I realized that the “nibbler” I had bought to cut my metal was actually going to work out pretty well.  I had yet another holy cow moment when I was able to repair the nibbler by replacing one of its blades….All. By. My. Self. 

All this time, I knew I know how to do these things, but I have always done them in an environment where I could ask for help if I needed to.  Now I am doing these things on my own in my own environment. 

Even today, I had another holy cow moment when I realized that not only had I gotten pretty much all of the equipment together that I need, I was actually well on my way to putting together another piece of art. 

“This is happening!” I thought.  “I’m doing it!”  What an ecstatic moment.  I think NOW I know I can do it.  Now I believe.

 

Thanks for reading all the way to the end of this rather long story.  I am curious, dear reader, if you have ever had experiences like these.  Maybe this type of holy cow moment is not limited to those of us of the feminine gender.  If you have had a moment like this, please leave a message in the comments below. I would love to hear your stories!

Until next time….Ciao Bella!

Drama in the Studio!

The other day, I had what I felt was a set back. 

I had decided I wanted to get a couple of paintings done in time for a deadline to be juried into a show.  I had worked very hard in the time I had to try to get them finished, and of course, I had the usual distractions and things that forced me away from my work.  Each distraction heightened my stress level (and my grumpiness), but I was determined to get at least one piece done.  See how I went from two, to at least one?

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The Power of the Flower

So, I tend to like to paint or depict flowers in my art.  A lot. 

I guess the simplest explanation for this is that I love flowers.  But one could go deeper.

Mom taught me to draw flowers first.  And she told me that I was good at it.  Drawing flowers = Mom’s Approval, therefore drawing flowers is good. Bang.  I still remember the first time she showed me how she drew roses, and how I practiced like mad.

Those that know me will also know that I love to garden.  I call myself a flower gardener, because I can do flowers.  They seem to grow for me, whereas vegetables seem to disdain my puny attempts to grow them.  Watching the flowers in my beds over the years, I have received a bit of an education.  Flowers have things to teach us about beauty, the transience of life, cycles of life, being useful, etc.  First, in their prime, they are brilliant, bright, perfumed, but as time wears on, they fade.  Some might say that the beauty is gone, but if you really look, it has just morphed in to a different kind of beauty – a beauty of a different line, softer colour, asymmetry and usefulness.  This is where we learn about life cycles, as the petals fall to be replaced with the seed that will bring next years crop of blushing beauty.  Of course, one also needs to mention that in their time, the flowers feed the bees and humming birds.  What a paragon of virtue these small brights are!

Finally, flowers have been used as a symbol of peace.  I am ALL about that.  I have decided that I would rather be a force for unity than divisiveness, and am backing off of making political statements in social media.  Especially these days when it seems that we are all so divided in our politics, and stating what we believe to be our side seems to consist mainly of criticizing what the other side is doing, thinking, believing, wearing, etc…

In any case, I guess I have actually always wanted to be a force for peace (I was always sad that I grew up too late to be a flower child!), and in thinking about the term “flower power,” I had to go and find its origin.  It seems that the American poet Allen Ginsberg introduced the idea in an essay about how to conduct a peace march.  He said that in order to disarm the potential for violence from opposing parties (police and Hell’s Angels!) that the marchers should bring loads of flowers to give to the police and the Angels as well as any politicians, press and spectators that might be on hand.  He also said they should bring toys, crosses, flags, musical instruments, candy bars and so forth.  He told them they could recite the Lord’s Prayer, or “The Star-Spangled Banner”, do mass calisthenics, or blast The Beatle’s “I Want to Hold Your Hand” on the loud speaker and break out into dance in order to disrupt possible violence. In essence, he was trying to tell us that it was all a big show – the politics of war, and the politics of peace - and he wanted the peace side to make a better show.  In the end, the Hell’s Angels said that they would not show up to the planned march, and violence was indeed, averted.

I love that story!

I don’t always paint or sculpt flowers…but when I do, these are some of the things behind the drive to bring them out.

Are you an artist? Do you have a certain thing you seem to be inspired to paint or depict in someway over and over?  Leave me a comment below, and let me know!

Thanks for reading.  I hope you have a blessed day.

Namaste.

Hello from BC!

Well, hello!!!

I guess the first thing I should do is apologize.  I have been gone so long that many of you who have subscribed to my newsletter probably thought I had fallen off of the planet. Hopefully, you will be pleased to note that, no, I have not.  What I did do was take a trip through the purgatory of moving to a different province and finding a new home.   I can tell you now, after all the struggle, stress, and physical labour, the move was worth it.  We have found ourselves in the beautiful and very friendly city/town of Duncan/North Cowichan, BC, on Vancouver Island. 

Having moved into yet another older house, we have a lot of renovations to do again, and a lot of work to get our yard anywhere near what our yard in Coaldale was like.  That being said, we have already begun the transformation process with both house and yard, and are extremely lucky to be surrounded (both sides, and across the road) with kind, friendly, inclusive, and generous neighbours.  We are exploring this beautiful island on the weekends we are not busy, and are quite enjoying being local tourists. We are walking more than ever; this place has so many beautiful trails (one trail-head being only 3 blocks from our house!) that it is one of my favourite past times.  Plus, I have started to go to the pool one day a week.   I have joined an art group (also a very friendly inclusive bunch) and am trying to get my art making as well as my art business onto a better schedule. 

And so here I am, nearly a year since we made BC our home, and we are settling in.  I hope to be able to share with you more thoughts on art in the near future.  I have been thinking it is time to revisit my why and I would like to write a few posts (…or maybe just one? Depends on how much I have to say.) about that, as well as how my mind plays tricks on me while I am making art.  In the meantime, it is definitely time to get this website up to date.

I would love to hear from you all about your experiences with moving and trying to get life back on track afterwards…hopefully I can get this comment thing working down below…leave me a message or send me an email.

Take care of you! 

Sending love,

Brenda

 

A Community of Artists

It occurred to me tonight that I am starting to follow an old pattern, but in a new way. Without even giving much thought to it, I have been starting to join diverse artist communities in the area and also to try to create or strengthen the artist community in my own town.

Now, part of me is going, “why would you want to put your time and effort into strengthening a community when you could be using that same time and effort in your studio and marketing of your own work?”  While another part of me is just bound and determined that it is important to get the artists in our town in the same space to ‘art’ (used as a verb) together, at the same time in a regular fashion.  I was musing over the strange dichotomy in my mind tonight when it suddenly clicked for me that community, in any form, is something that I have been quietly passionate about for a long time.

Ever since I lived in my first small apartment building in Calgary, the power of community has been evident to me.  This little building had about 12 apartments in it, and most of us were fairly young, so we started to party together as we seemed to get along.  And then, it started to go further than that.  We started to look out for one another, and help each other out.  It was a great comfort to know that there was someone to take me to the doctor when I needed it, and that we kept an eye out for bad apples in the building.  We had each other’s backs.

An artist community can do much the same thing.  We socialize like no others, because we are all just a little whacky (in a fun-loving sort of way, of course!).  I have had some great laughs just sitting and painting in a house in Mountain View with a bunch of other artist broads.  And we help each other; we take a look at each other’s work and encourage, give appropriate ooh’s and aaah’s, and when asked we will give kind, diplomatic advice on a painting that has stalled.  Artists that have been in the ring for a number of years also have great advice for newbies on how to sell, where the good shows are, and what to avoid when starting out.

So, I know I bitch and complain at times when it comes to the volunteer work I do to set up shows and events for artists to get out there and hopefully make a sale or two.  But in the end, I have a feeling I will keep doing it, because community is important to me, and art is important to me.  Who knows, maybe I might get really good at it and make it profitable someday.

Happy Spring, everyone!

Take care, and lets chat again soon….lol.

Dragging my Wings?

I have to say I thought doing my own internet marketing and business admin would be a lot easier.   After all, I have gone through enough business and marketing courses in my time, a lot of them even quite recently.  Plus, I have done the books for the family welding shop forever, it seems.  I even helped my brother write up a business plan for the shop in order to get a loan.

I didn’t realize how much harder it can be when you are so close to the business.  There is all this fear around getting it right and exposing your deepest wishes and dreams. On the surface, I know that it is ok to fail, but maybe I have had it ingrained in me too long that failure is the end.  I guess I need to keep working on my new belief that failure is really just a learning experience to show me a new direction rather than a signal to quit.

As well, I guess while I have been familiar with the welding shop my whole life, seeing how it works, what we have stood for and what we are capable of, my art business is still so new to me that I am still figuring it all out. I am still working on developing my art.  I am still learning how to build a website and send out a proper newsletter.  I am still unfolding and evolving, and so it is hard to say what my business should look like.  I think a streak of perfectionism makes me forget sometimes (maybe a lot!) that I don’t have to say this is what I am and forevermore shall be.  Hah!

So. What happens with all this closeness and newness (aka. fear of failure and being unsure)?  A whole lot of procrastination.  Dang!  I frustrate myself sometimes.  BUT (and, as one of my favourite high school teachers liked to say, I’d like to stress the BUT), I have not yet given up.  I keep slogging away, and occasionally I seem to be able to trick myself around my procrastinating and get something done.  Somehow, I managed to get my website up and running this year, and that was hard!  A big learning curve there. I have also finally installed QuickBooks and entered a year’s worth of receipts and invoices, and that one was much easier than I thought it would be.

And here I am finally writing my second blog.  Hopefully I will master MailChimp this week too, so I can send it out in my newsletter.

They say that artists have a hard time mastering their inner critic, which is true.  But it seems that now we are expected to overcome the hurdle of building our own businesses, as well.  It is proving to be a slow winding process for me. Nonetheless, I have hope that as I get used to doing these things, they will come easier to me. 

At times, I am left feeling totally overwhelmed, but it is at these times I take baby steps and ask myself, “what one little thing can I do right now that will start me back on my path again?”  It seems to work to get me going again.  So, while I usually shun New Years resolutions, perhaps this can be my mantra for 2017…along with a little dose of self discipline.

I hope that you all experience all the joy of the Christmas season, that you have the love of family and friends, and that you stay warm and safe as we end this year. 

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all!

Cheers,

Brenda 

Testing my Wings!

Wow!!!!  Welcome to my new blog! With this first blog post, on my first website, I am excited to share with you a milestone in the unfolding of my myth, my larger than life dream.

There is a gorgeous poem by Rumi (a 13th century Persian poet) that translators have titled, Unfold Your Own Myth.  It is full of allusion to the myths and legends that others have lived and shared.  But Rumi also asks us in this poem to create our own myths, to live our lives larger than the limitations we impose on the ordinary.

It starts out with the line, “Who gets up early to discover the moment light begins?” which could be a reference to the seeker, or to God who created light in the beginning of all things.  It continues on with the references to those other legends (which you can read in The Essential Rumi, © 1995, Coleman Barks, translator.), and the last two stanzas are as follows:

“But don't be satisfied with stories,
how things have gone with others.
Unfold your own myth,
without complicated explanation,
so everyone will understand the passage,
We have opened you.

Start walking toward Shams. Your legs will get heavy
and tired. Then comes a moment of feeling
the wings you've grown, lifting.”

I have always found this poem to be wildly inspirational, wanting to set out on some mythic journey each time I have read it.  But I also interpret it as an encouragement or admonishment not to give up on our dreams.

In the past few years, I guess, I have finally gathered up my courage and started down that path of my unfolding. Taking step by slow step towards the dream of being a full time artist.  And yes, fear has, at times, made my legs feel tired, but I have kept going. Starting to make more time for my art. Starting to take my art out into the public, and apply to shows.  Starting to involve myself in the community of artists.  And now, I am striving to take my art to the next level.  I have started this website and registered my business name.  I am dedicated more than ever to using my new found marketing skills to make this project a success. 

It is scary, exciting, and blissful all at the same time.  And although I may take another 2 or 3 years to see the realization of every little thing that I am aiming for, I will just keep taking these steps one at a time until I get there.

One last share?

It is partially with Rumi’s poem in mind that I wrote my own poem about my unfolding a little while ago (whoa! It has actually been 2 years since I wrote that.  Time does fly).  I have shared it elsewhere, but I wanted to include it here as a measure of the joy and inspiration I have been feeling lately.

Fledging

Breaking out of old molds.
Fresh colours on my palate,
Different brush strokes on my soul.

Stretching canvas once forgotten,
Creating wings from tattered cotton.
Feeling the lift of the freshening wind...(inhale)
a way to breathe with wings unpinned.

And finally...on a good push
         and a laughing dare,
I am birthed
    UP
into the air.

B.I.T., July 19, 2014

Thank you dear reader, for sharing my first steps with me in this new endeavour of mine.  I hope to make this blog a regular thing, and I would most definitely love to hear from you.  Please leave a comment below in regards to this post, or to my art, or any old thing.  Let me know what your unfolding myth looks like.

Until next time!

Namaste.