For the record, I am feeling better. The last post seemed to have gotten a couple of people concerned about my welfare…with good reason. However, the end of the holidays began a much needed shift in mental/emotional/spiritual health and I am happy to report that, today at least, I seem to be a fully functioning human being.
I decided to celebrate this renewal by answering THE MOST OFTEN ASKED QUESTION at my open studio last month:
“How did you get into welding sculptures?”
Sometimes I forget how unusual it is for most people to meet a woman who can weld. I have several women friends who are artistic welders, not to mention the fact that there is a great fb page on women welders that regularly posts pictures of young women rockin’ the MIG’s, TIG’s and stick welders. So before I tell my story, let me say that I am not alone by any means…Rosie the Riveter might have just died but there are many generations of women who are carrying on her legacy.
Now…my story. I realized that I have not written about how I got interested in metal fabrication on this blog. At least I don’t think I have. If you have read this before, I give you permission to skip to the end. I also give you points for having a better memory than I do…which is not too difficult, to be sure.
The year was 2003. I had been working with polymer clay (Fimo, Sculpey, Premo) for 13 years and was getting a little burnt out. I had done the retail and wholesale show thing and really wanted to spend more time creating and less time doing production work. I knew I wanted to work in three dimensions but not with clay, which left wood, stone and metal. One day I looked at the continuing studies catalog at MICA (Maryland Institute College of Art) and saw that they were having a metal fabrication class.
Honestly, I had no idea what I was getting into. I thought, perhaps, I would be learning how to bolt things together, rivet a few things…my mind couldn’t handle what the possibilities were. So when I showed up the first day and my teacher lit up the oxy-acetylene torch I was petrified. Shit, I thought, we are working with real fire here.
I didn’t really relax until we started learning how to MIG weld. Once I began to “glue with lightning” I realized that this was what I wanted to do when I grew up. MIG welding (Metal Inert Gas) is one of the easier ways to connect two pieces of metal. Everything you need is contained in one place, you just have to press the trigger. The gas, the steel wire and the electricity all work together to create a welding bead. I was in heaven.
After another month, I found out I was actually pretty good at this welding thing. I graduated from a 6″ X 6″ X 6″ box to a full sized red-tailed hawk during that semester.
I took the class again the following semester and made “Shash”, the life-sized grizzly bear.
By the end of the term I had closed my studio/gallery and found a welding studio to make large-scale sculptures in. That was where the lion and the giraffe were born.
Fourteen years later and I am still in heaven. I love welding, it is such a power trip. It doesn’t seem odd to be a woman doing this, it seems odd that more women aren’t. Here’s my message to all women:
If you have ever thought of taking a welding class…do it. It is not difficult, it is not scary and you will feel so powerful after you have accomplished it. And tell your daughters to learn as well!
Of course if feeling powerful and accomplished is not your cup of tea…then don’t bother. But (and this is trite but utterly true) if I can do it, you can too. Any questions?