Lea Fales began welding just this past April. “My work is driven by a desire to better understand the methods of assembly that are used for small and large-scale public art installations. Understanding how pieces and parts make up a whole is a different kind attention to detail that is often times overlooked,” she says.
With barely any welding experience, Lea turns to her father for help. “I scribble notes when he demos a new lesson for me and read myself bedtime stories from welding technique manuals. I have watched and re-watched my welder’s set-up instruction video and several YouTube videos….”
Lea hasn’t received any formal training…yet! But she will begin a three-year graduate program in the fall of 2014 for a Master’s Degree in Sculpture. Her ultimate goal is to plan, develop, and maintain spaces for public art.
Who/What got you interested in welding?
My father has used welding in an array of applications over the course of his life: automotive, maintenance, repair, sculptural, and miscellaneous fabrication. His experience in both MIG and TIG welding provides a wealth of information and most importantly, priceless time together.
What’s your favorite type of welding?
So far, my favorite type of welding is Shielded Metal Arc Welding [SMAW]. I’ve worked with Gas Metal Arc Welding [MIG/GMAW], which was nice, but there’s something about starting each new stick electrode that makes me feel like I’m working. I’m the kind of person who chooses the stairs instead of taking an elevator.
With each new project, I have been pushing the boundaries of metal choices, which is also allowing me to explore new methods of welding. More TIG welding instruction is next because of the significant variety of materials it will work with.
What inspires your work?
As an undergraduate student at the University of Central Florida, I am taking my first sculpture class this fall. Design is my foundation for creation. I look to renowned artists like Alexander Calder, Richard Serra, Mark Di Suvero, Jose de Rivera, and Bernar Venet.
Do you have a favorite piece that you’ve welded?
Assembly methods and design are more important at this stage of my learning. I feel I will always be working to find that “favorite design.”
Is it difficult to be a woman in this field? What advice would you give to women who want to pursuit a career in welding?
The only difficulty I’ve encountered is the fact that I am a petite, lightweight person. A forklift won’t fit in my garage! My advice is to make friends so that you aren’t working alone trying to manage large, heavy items! I find men (and other women welders) to be more helpful when they realize that my interest in learning the trade is sincere and applicable to my field of study.
Where do you see the welding industry in 10 years?
There is a dynamic culture that surrounds the welding community and I hope to see that continue to prosper over the next 10 years and beyond. I would also like to see my generation, both men and women, advance the developing processes and innovative uses of metals.
We were extremely excited to get to know Lea and tell her welding story. We’re sure Lea will inspire more women to go back to school—we can’t wait to see her first public installation!