To every woman out there who has a hammer and is afraid to use it, I’ve got the workshop for you. Let me explain …
Founder, Creative Director and Chief Ideas Girl, Meg Solly, is used to being the only woman on a construction site, but thanks in part to her own creative credentials and her all-rounder husband Clint, that is beginning to change. Girls – say hello to She Skills.
Whether you love watching home renovation shows but lack the skills and confidence, have a handy partner and are forever waiting for jobs to be done around the house, or simply wanting to gain more independence, She Skills offers you short and sweet courses to give you that added confidence and expertise to get the job done.
Workshops for women
Meg and Clint (Team Solly) are leading workshops for women in woodwork and power tools skills in Brisbane – it’s a place where women are encouraged to step outside their comfort zone, build the confidence to imagine, design, and create great things, and rock a hammer better than MC.
With an open and excited mind, I attended my first beginner’s workshop. Ranging from early twenties to late sixties, about seven women including myself wandered into a warehouse in Salisbury, to learn the basics of working with timber.
We were going to build a small timber shadow box using a variety of techniques – a straightforward enough task some would say. Let me tell you, it was a workout. No one mentioned how exhausting it would be!
We learned how to plan, draw, measure and set up our project, how to cut timber with a drop saw, drill pilot holes, how masking tape can make things easier, and experimenting and making mistakes is a way of learning.
The big picture
Meg says the big picture is to provide women with resources to be independent, in the form of skills, knowledge and a supportive network of people, both men and women.
“Independence means different things to different people. For some that might mean building a sandpit for their child or fixing a leaking shower, for others that might mean being able to secure an apprenticeship in a well-paying trade,” Meg says.
“It might even be as simple as finding a trustworthy trades person to service their car,” she says.Meg explains that people are makers by nature. With technological advancement, workplaces are now based around virtual or paper progress.
“Making things by hand gives you a sense of pride that is difficult to explain, particularly when you have learned a new skill that you previously thought was out of your reach. It is also therapeutic,” Meg says.
If you’re someone who works on computers for long periods of time during the week like me, this offers you a change of scenery. Who would have thought hitting something with all your force into a plank of pine would be so satisfying?
The duo hope that the growing number of classes, knowledge and experience will contribute to greater gender equality in the skilled trade sector and life in general.
“TAFE, Men’s Sheds, and other private classes are full of men, that many women find intimidating so the idea for She Skills was born,” Meg says.
“This is a long term strategy which complements other initiatives like try-a-trade days, and Women in Trades organisations, and I think that it will make a contribution towards expanding the career options accessible to women.”
The glass wall to women in trades
According to the Australian Human Rights Commission’s toolkit for increasing women’s participation in male-dominated industries, a “lack of family role models” was a key barrier to women.
Meg believes targeting this gap is a good place to start.
“We set about creating visible role models for the young people in our lives, mums, grandmas and aunties and friends that have the skills and confidence to pick up tools and build and fix things for themselves. Sometimes you’ve got to be your own role model,” she says.
No matter what your background, Meg says the development of these skills feeds into other areas of your life.
“I find that I am more likely to have a go at fixing things myself first rather than always relying on someone else to do it for me,” she says.
Meg says she grew to love helping Clint build things in his role as a cabinet maker and started gaining more skills and confidence to take on her own projects.
“I like up cycling furniture. I’m forever bringing home things I found on the side of the road, fixing them up and giving them a new life in our home,” Meg says.
She Skills currently runs workshops in Introduction to Timber Construction, Power Tools and Creating with Pallets. Team Solly plan to move into their own workshop, running longer courses to those who have expressed an interest in furniture making.
“I’d like to see She Skills having a national presence, whether that is workshops in every state or acting as an adviser to similar organisations. I’m interested in partnering with higher education institutions as I think we offer some unique and valuable research opportunities in the work we are doing.”
So did I nail it?
Overall, it was a great experience and I really enjoyed creating something with my own hands that I could feel proud to take home and hang on my wall – and all this in the company of other lovely women who are also learning new skills.
If you’re considering building your own bandwagon and jumping on board, I’d definitely recommend hitting up She Skills.
I can now confidently say, I have a drill and I’m not afraid to use it.
Keep an eye out in the future; you may see Team Solly on The Block in 2017. In the interim, get yourself to a workshop – here.