Category Archives: New Rosies

Profiles of female fabricators in today’s workforce.

Mending a Broken Heart

Cynthia Phillips: A Female Fabricator with a Craving for Creativity

For a lot of women, packing up their entire life to move to a different state for a new job sounds quite daunting. Factor in trying to deal with yet another male-dominated shop where you have to prove that your work is just as good (if not better) as theirs, and it sounds like something no woman would do more than once.

Cynthia Phillips Customizes her Welding GlovesMeet Cynthia Phillips, aka @hotsteelwelding, who did this not once, not twice, not even three times… but eight times! Cynthia worked at eight different shops and says, “You gotta go where the work is, especially when freelancing.”

When asked if this is where she saw her life going when she was little, she gave a definite “no.”

Cynthia’s first job was a lifeguard and swim instructor, as she had dedicated most of her childhood to swimming. “It was mainly my parents doing but looking back now, I’m grateful they encouraged me.”

Craving Creativity

When Cynthia began pursuing a career of her own liking, she didn’t know exactly what she wanted to do, except that it needed to be something creative. She enrolled herself in the Alfred University, an art school in western New York known for its ceramics program and sculpture facilities. Beginning with a course in printmaking, Cynthia says, “I felt I needed to try a more hands-on course so I chose Glass Blowing one semester and Intro to Metal Fab the following semester.”

MIG Welding in Proper Welding Safety GearThe initial experience of welding was a little intimidating for Cynthia. “I wasn’t used to loud noises or sparks flying but after completing my first project, I was hooked.” She dropped out of her printmaking course and pursued sculpture full time.

Cynthia’s passion for welding turned into a career of a lifetime. She started out building small sets for local theaters and through several referrals, travelled the country to work on commercial and event sets for various shops throughout the country. She even went to Brazil to fabricate a set for the NBC News Studio during the 2016 Olympics.

Reaching for the Stars

Cynthia says it’s who you know more than what you know and credits her networking skills more than her own talents for how far she’s come over the years. “Networking is key! I find it very important to network and meet as many builders, drafters and shops as possible.” One referral at one shop leads to two or three referrals to another shop and as soon as you know it, you’re a traveling freelance sculptor who builds set pieces for musicians on tour.

Set Piece Fabricated for Beyonce's TourEver heard of Katy Perry or the queen bee, Beyonce? Yeah, Cynthia’s fabricated numerous set pieces for their tours. “Both Katy Perry and Beyonce have given the shop I work for really challenging and fun projects. I’d have to say the stainless steel chair we made for Beyonce was the most intricate welding job I’ve been part of.” Cynthia’s hard work paid off. Beyonce loved her chair so much, she ordered two more to give as Christmas gifts.

Cynthia had the pleasure of working for two empowering women but hasn’t had the chance to work with any yet.

This is a Man’s World

Cynthia Phillips Stacks DimesThe trades industry is saturated with men and it’s extremely difficult for women to integrate well into this workforce. She says, “I experience a lot of anxiety before showing up at a new shop. I always feel I have to prove myself and explain why I want to be a welder. Also, harassment is a real issue; I’ve left a shop because of this. But that’s why you network. You learn who you want to work for and with.”

One of the best ways to network nowadays, besides hustling across the country like Cynthia, is through social media.

The Social Network

Thanks to social media, it’s a lot easier to find people with the same interests, aspirations and desires as you. With the current state of women in the workforce, especially a male dominated industry like the trades, it is so important to network with women in similar situations. Cynthia says, “I always looked up to the WWII photos I would find online of women working in shops. Then I started my Instagram and began seeing more and more women and groups of women welding. I was in awe and instantly motivated!”

Fabricating Pieces for Set DesignsSomething great about the women’s online welding community is that they are not afraid to share both sides of the #WeldLife. They post their strengths and weaknesses, ups and downs and the hurdles they encounter to become the strong women they are today. It’s a place we all can go to gain insight, seek advice and like Cynthia, become motivated for the next project.

Like the wonderful women’s community, Cynthia was more than happy to share her insight of the welding industry. Continue reading to see what she has to say about tools, apparel and more …


What are your favorite welding tools to use?

I might be biased but my favorite welding tool would have to be my personal welder, a Miller Diversion 180. I love that this welder is tiny enough to travel to a job site yet powerful enough to run all day long. I saved and saved and researched this welder before I bought it. I’m just proud whenever I see it.

And, I could not work without my strong hand clamps. Lifesavers!

Which tool was the easiest/most difficult to learn to use?Mrs. Roboto

The MIG welder was easy to get the hang of.

Using the TIG welder was challenging and I would say the most difficult to learn. It took a lot of patience and practice but now it’s what I use the most. It’s hard to imagine back when I had trouble with it.

What brand of safety gear/apparel is your favorite?

This is a tough question for me. I find it extremely difficult to find protective welding gear that fits me. Most of the big companies only carry men’s sizes.

I used “Angel Fire” welding jackets but tend to go through them quickly.

I use Tillman TIG gloves in small- when I can find those.

Other than that, I’ve tried some of the women’s Carhartt line and Dickies Girl.

It’s pretty cool that your career is what some people are only lucky to have as a hobby, what do you do outside of work for fun?

Hidden Gems on the Roads Less TraveledI still build stuff for fun and even dabble in carpentry.

But everyone needs a break from the shop. My boyfriend and I have a 1956 Shasta camper we take out to the desert or the beach. We try to take the roads less traveled. Always looking for an old motel sign or abandoned building to take photos of. You’d probably see us on Route 66!

I’ve also been learning how to skateboard.

Trying to challenge myself in everything.

Lastly, what advice would you give girls/women looking to enter into the trades industry?

Don’t give up, never be afraid to ask questions, always listen and smile!

That old guy whose been at the shop forever can teach you a lot. I know from experience.

 

Barbie the Welder, Welding

This Barbie has Built Her Own Dream Garage

Before she earned her place as one of Instagram’s & YouTube’s welding sensations, Barbie the Welder was just a small town girl shoveling snow around her neighborhood to make a quick buck. 

From the time she was 7 or 8 years old, Barbie knew the importance of hard work. Barbie the Welder, Learning from Dad, Welding, Shop Time, Father Daughter“My dad always worked hard to provide for our family. I looked up to him. He was funny, rode motorcycles and always had me by his side when he was working around the house. He taught me so many things and was the catalyst for my love of building things and working with my hands,” says Barbie. 

Although Barbie’s father wasn’t a welder, he ignited her passion for craftsmanship and the satisfaction derived from physical labor. She worked for years as an auto mechanic out of high school, followed by a few years as a metal scrap hauler, but Barbie struggled to make ends meet. She recalls, “It was super tough. You work every day to hopefully make money enough to get you gas to find more metal. I really didn’t have any money, and our family was living in the projects.”

Little did she know that one simple scene would change her life forever.

For most people, the Tom Hanks’ movie, Castaway is just an iconic movie. Barbie the Welder Angel Wings Metal Art Welding But for Barbie the Welder, it was the spark of inspiration that set her on the course to find her purpose and pursue her destiny. Barbie says, “I saw the woman in the beginning of the movie welding giant angel wings, and it spoke to my soul.” For the next nine months, she saved every extra penny she earned from metal hauling to put herself through a $1200, 6 month, 104 hour adult welding class. Without really knowing where they would lead, Barbie began her courses in the hopes of becoming a sculptor. What happened next was a welcome surprise.

“My teacher saw my passion and potential and told me to talk to Kenny at Cameron Manufacturing and Design, a local custom fab shop,” says Barbie, “I asked for $10 an hour, figuring I was worth about $9 and it would give me some wiggle room. So I did all my testing and they offered me $13. I was beyond blown away! After making peanuts working for myself, it was a game changer.”

Barbie the Welder, Under the Hood, Miller Digital Elite Welding Helmet3 ½ years later, Barbie earned enough money to buy her family a nice house with a garage large enough to convert into a metal shop. It took 9 more months to save money to purchase the machines, but the wait was worth it.

She continued to work at Cameron Manufacturing and Design while working part time out of her own shop. But on September 1, 2014 Barbie resigned from Cameron’s and started working full time for herself. She remembers, “It wasn’t easy, but it was a means to an end. I knew that in order to do great things, there is a lot of sacrifice and no instant rewards. It’s long term sacrifice for those rewards.”

Here at Arc-Zone, we’ve identified Barbie as a source of inspiration; what makes her even more real, is Barbie’s honesty and openness to sharing her struggles. If you don’t follow her on Instagram @BarbietheWelder, you’re missing out. Not only does she showcase her incredible talent, but she shares the trials and errors of working with metal. Often, projects don’t turn out exactly how we want them, and Barbie shows us that persistence and determination are really the only secrets to making improvements in our work. Barbie the Welder, It's ok to Make a mistake, Metal Art, Sculpture, WeldingChallenging ourselves and staying committed can lead to our best work. It all starts with personal responsibility.

We wondered who this inspiring woman looks up to. She replied, “There are many beautiful, fierce women in the welding industry that I admire. Jessi Combs, April Wilkerson, and Cynthia Gauthier. Just to name a few!”

What else does Barbie have to say about women in welding and welding in general? Read her responses to our “Rosie” interview to learn more…

What advice would you give girls/women looking to enter into the trades industry?
If it’s what you really love, go all in! Welding has given me good self-esteem, improved my financial situation, and allowed me to create opportunities for myself that I never imagined!

What are the hardest hurdles to overcome in the welding industry?
I feel that getting the education that I wanted, in the fab shop I worked at, was a challenge.

What are your favorite welding tools to use?
My mind is my favorite tool! If it has to be welding, I would say my MIG because it’s so versatile!

Barbie the Welder, Miller, Digital Elite helmet, Welding TableWhat brands of safety gear/apparel are your favorites?
Any safety gear is my favorite because I love my face and fingers right where they are! When it comes to welding, I only use Miller Elite hoods! Super durable and great features!

What do you love most about welding and fabrication?
I love seeing a picture in my head and being able to form, shape, and bend metal to create it. The only limit is my imagination!

Favorite/memorable project?
My favorite project so far is my 5′ tall Sorrowful Angel sculpture

How do you best learn new skills?
I learn new skills by jumping in and trying, I’m a hands on kind of person.

Lastly, it’s pretty cool that your career is what some people are only lucky to have as a hobby, what do you do outside of work for fun?
I love to spend time with my family, travel, hunt, fish, and play in the mud! I have two amazing sons, 24, and 13 years old. My younger son started welding with me when he was 5 and went on to design and create his own sculptures but has gone on to blacksmithing and cooking. (I really love the cooking!)

Connect with Barbie or buy her Books & Creations:  

Barbie the Welder, Horseshoe Crafts, Welding Projects

 

 

 

 

Barbies are OK but WELDING is Awesome!

BarbieWelderWhen I was entering junior high school, I had a choice:  Home Ec or Shop (which included welding).  I chose Shop.

My guidance counselor, however, chose otherwise.  “All the girls take Home Ec,” he said.

So like most young girls of the 70s I learned to sew a wrap-around skirt and make jello salad.  Two skills I have never had the need for nor were they a pathway to a good career.

If I knew then what I know now, that  Title IX means schools have to offer the same opportunities to boys and girls, and that learning to use power tools could have led to a decent career, I might have stood up for myself. I would have told that gruff old geezer of a counselor to stuff it.

What I know now is that it doesn’t have to be a choice.  Brittany Kerr may have preferred welding rods to Barbies, but that’s not always the case. We’ve featured many women for the New Rosies column who like girly things, and like welding too.

Whatever your preference, check out this article, “Barbies? No! But Welding Rods? Yes! by Crystal Dey: Continue reading

Congratulations Oregon Tradeswomen!

One of the more active groups in promoting women in the trades and encouraging women to join the trades is Oregon Tradeswomen, Inc. (OTI), an organization founded on the principles that women deserve and can attain economic self-sufficiency through pursuing careers in the building, mechanical, electrical, and utility trades while helping and encouraging the trades industry build up a diverse workforce.

THE HARDWORKING, GRANT WINNING STAFF FROM OTI

FROM OTI:

Oregon Tradeswomen, Inc. (OTI) is proud to announce that on June 14, 2016, we were awarded a Women in Apprenticeship and Non-Traditional Occupations (WANTO) grant to continue our work connecting women with high wage, high skill trades careers through registered apprenticeship.

“Oregon Tradeswomen, Inc. is honored to work with our partners, Seattle-based Apprenticeship and Nontraditional Employment for Women and Oakland, California-based Tradeswomen Inc. through the Women in Apprenticeship and Non-Traditional Occupations program,’’ said Connie Ashbrook, OTI’s Executive Director.  “Many women in our communities are passionately interested in working in the construction, manufacturing and utility trades, but don’t know where to get started.  Our joint efforts to provide women with the education, skills, and connections they need support their access to and success in family-supporting trades careers, while at the same time helping apprenticeship programs and employers diversify their workforces.”

The $650,000 will be awarded over the course of two years. It will fund direct technical assistance work in the Portland, Seattle, and Oakland metropolitan regions, as well as outreach throughout the Western United States.

READ MORE AT THE OTI WEBSITE–>

THIS is great news for women and the for the industry!  We look forward to more good news from the Oregon Tradeswomen.

 

Today’s Rosie is a New York City Bridge Welder!

Not only do we like writing about the amazing women that work in the welding industry, we enjoy reading about other women in the industry!

A Day in the Grueling Life of a New York City Bridge Welder

What it’s like to be one of the few women maintaining New York’s iconic bridges.

Moloney, who is 29, is working as a journeyman and is one of the few female welders (out of a crew of about 100) on the bridge project. She grew up in New Jersey and—thanks to an interest in sculpture—took welding classes in Manhattan’s Chinatown before holding down various gigs as a tattoo artist, freelance illustrator, and café manager. Then she headed to trade school for welding. There, at Apex Tech in Long Island City, she head about the union, Brooklyn’s Ironworkers Local 361. There was a test coming up, and she went for it.

http://www.citylab.com/navigator/2016/05/a-day-in-the-grueling-life-of-a-new-york-city-bridge-welder/481656/

Let us know if you know any amazing women in the welding industry! Or if you are one  yourself!