While most welders have a flair for design, you wouldn’t expect the typical welder to have formal design training and be able to create a logo as easily as they can a fancy piece of metalwork. You probably wouldn’t expect the typical welder to have long hair and painted fingernails, either.
But Gubby Beckenstein isn’t your typical welder.
In the spirit of International Women’s Day, exactly 100 years after women received the right to vote, we wanted to share Gubby’s story with you as an example of one of the many women who have carved out a flourishing career in the trades.
MEET GUBBY BECKENSTEIN
Not only is Gubby Beckenstein a welder, but she is also a business owner – she runs www.gubbybeck.com where she sells a variety of handmade, decorative welding pieces that range in price from $15 for a small piece to over $100 for some of the larger pieces.
Living in the tourist mecca of Joshua Park, a place she now calls home after falling in love on a visit, Gubby makes the vast majority of her sales to tourists at local markets.
Using her unique creative style based on both her South African heritage and years in design school, she creates a variety of beautiful keepsakes including keychains, decorative wall pieces, sculptures, and most recently, jewelry pieces such as earrings and necklace pendants.
A few years ago, she decided to open an instagram account to expand the reach of her business to great success. Her @gubbybeck account has well over 10,000 followers and now drives a fair amount of business to her sculpting shops.
A quick scroll through her instagram account gives an idea of the amazing breadth of Gubby’s talent including large welded lawn sculptures, intricately painted spoons, and all kinds of other eye-catching artwork beautifully crafted through welding.
AN ARTIST BECOMES A WELDER
Gubby had never intended to pursue a career as a welder, it all happened by chance as she was pursuing a Fine Arts degree.
It was while completing her degree that she was first introduced to welding sculptures and immediately fell in love with the art. While she still has her design skills (and even creates the odd logo for companies), welding sculptures has grown from a passion to a full-time career.
“I love working for myself and welding has given me the opportunity to do that. Running your own business is a hustle – there are times when money pours in and times when you don’t know how you’ll make rent, but I love every minute. My job allows me to do what I love and live somewhere I love – I don’t think a lot of people can say that.”
ON BEING A WOMAN IN WELDING
“When I first opened my instagram account I only posted pictures of my work, not myself. Everyone who contacted me was surprised to learn I was a woman – they all assumed that as a welder, I must be a man.
In my experience, people don’t take you as seriously when you’re female, they think welding is a hobby or something like that. I wanted people to know that’s not true, there are lots of talented female welders, and I wanted people to know the work on my instagram was done by a woman. That’s when I started posted pictures of myself to the account.”
As in other male-dominated industries, women welders feel that they are judged by a different standard than their male counterparts. While Gubby works for herself, friends of hers that work directly in the trade feel that they are given lower expectations than male workers from the get-go and have to bring their A-game every single day.
Also, like many other industries, women welders tend to make much less than their male counterparts.
But Gubby thinks this is changing.
“Whenever I mention that I’m a welder, people are always taken aback – no one expects that to be my vocation. I used to do pipe-fitting in a fabrication shop and felt that I had to prove my worth every day. I not only felt that my work had to be exceptional all the time, but also that I had to keep up with the guys. So I would lift heavy objects, things like that, just to show I could, just to say, “Hey, I’m just like you.”
But things are changing. Attitudes are shifting and I think women working in trades are starting to get a lot more recognition and respect.”
One of the areas Gubby would like to see more change is in PPE for women. In her experience, many flame-resistant garments made for women are flimsier than those made for men. The material doesn’t stand up to the heat as well and they aren’t as durable. This means that often times, to have adequate protection, she must wear men’s PPE, which is poorly fitting and gets in the way of her work.
Another issue is sizing. The fact that women welders tend to have much smaller hands and bodies than their male counterparts becomes a real problem when trying to find PPE that fits. Gubby would like to see more effort from manufacturers for properly fitted, good quality PPE for women.
One product she does like – Superior’s KGC1T protective sleeves.
“These sleeves are the first I’ve found that fit me properly and are tough enough to stand up to the work I have to do. I have been using these sleeves for over a year without so much as a tear – and they protect my arms without overheating or becoming uncomfortable.”
INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY
Superior Glove is proud to support women in the trades with high quality PPE in sizes that fit. One hundred years after women received the right to vote it’s amazing to see how far we’ve come. We can’t wait to see the progress the next 100 years will bring.