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!