From the time she was 7 or 8 years old, Barbie knew the importance of hard work. “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. 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.”
3 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. Challenging 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!
What 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!
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:
- Buy her How to Book on Horseshoes Crafts here at Arc-Zone.com
- Visit her Website: www.barbiethewelder.com
- Shop her Creations on Barbie’s Etsy Store
- Learn from her Videos on Youtube.com
- Follow her on Instagram @BarbietheWelder