Welding class sparks interest for Columbus women
By Erin NorrisPublished December 1, 2012
It’s been 70 years since the wartime “Rosies” took over the steel plants and assembly lines, but there remains an unmistakable gender gap in metalworking.
Alli Meade, an artist and welding instructor at the Columbus Idea Foundry, certainly noticed that her classes were male-dominated.
“Every now and again, I’d have a woman in my class, although it was mostly just guys,” she said. “The women didn’t seem to dive in and really try things, and they just didn’t seem as enthusiastic as the men were about it.”
Meade believed many women were intimidated by the demographics, so she began teaching an all-women’s class once a month.
“A lot of times, the men would really hog all of the equipment and the time on the machines, so I felt like women would be more comfortable welding around other women.”
The class filled up within a week, and has continued to be a success every month. One of the advantages to limiting the class to women, Meade said, is that it encourages first-timers to bring their friends. Indeed, the small group of twenty-something women that showed up last month were coworkers.
“I found the class online through her website and set it all up,” said Bri DeRolph, “Then I sent out an e-mail seeing who would be interested in doing it, and we have a pretty good turnout.”
Most in the group were first-time welders, although one had some experience.
“When I was in college, I would create bronze pieces and then weld them,” said Carly Tysh, “It was a skill I never really mastered, though, because my professor would help me a lot of the time.” She said that she didn’t feel uncomfortable learning alongside men, but believes she can develop her skills better in an all-women’s class. “When I had done welding in the past, it was always the boys that would kind of dominate the area,” she said. “A lot of times they would say, ‘Oh, just give that to me. I’ll do that for you.’ But I wanted to learn for myself. I do feel like it was a male-dominated field, so this is a nice opportunity to figure it out at your own level and pace.”
The success of the class can largely be attributed to an increased interest in DIY culture. With an ever-increasing amount of blogs and publications devoted to step-by-step instructions on building functional household items, a little skill can now go a long way. Of the students that attended her November class, all said that they were mostly interested in building furniture and artwork.
Meade has so far been impressed by her female students.
“They do really well. It’s surprising to see how quickly women who have never welded before pick up on everything,” she said. In one class, an older woman remarked that her father was a welder, but never let her learn the trade.
“Her dad told her that it wasn’t for women, so this was the first time she ever got to try. She just loved it.”
The four-hour classes are priced at $100 per student, and are held once a month. Meade assigns a take-home project in every class, so students have something to remember their experience by. In the past, items have included lawn art and picture frames. Students who wish to advance their skills further can sign up for one-on-one tutoring and eventually apply for a membership at the Idea Foundry.
“I really enjoy teaching welding, and I enjoy teaching women in particular because I remember now being intimidated at first,” she said, “I never thought that I would be doing this full-time and enjoying it so much.”
Meade’s artwork is sold through her studio, Old Soul Studio. Interested parties can sign up for her welding classes at www.columbusideafoundry.com.