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Playing with fire

Patience pays off for welding artists

By Jeanni Brosius

This article was published February 12, 2012 at 3:08 a.m.

— When Amanda Wyman of Pangburn and Carolyn Hendrix of Cabot applied for a welding course, neither woman knew which direction her life would take. The two women met and became friends when they began the Welding Technology program at Arkansas State University-Searcy.

Not only were they the only women in the class, but they each had an interest in art.

Hendrix fired up the MIG welder, pulled down her welding helmet and seemed comfortable as she took the MIG gun in her hand.

She spent eight years in the Air Force, where she worked with sheet metal, and she said she had always wanted to learn to weld. She said that because she’s always had a passion for art, she wanted to blend the two.

Wyman was a stay-at-home mom, and when her daughter went to school, Wyman decided she needed something to occupy her newly found free time.

“I thought I would like to do something out of my comfort zone,” Wyman said.

Wyman and Hendrix began working together and immediately formed a friendship. Once they learned the art of welding, they began creating sculptures together. They also said they plan on opening a welding shop together after they graduate in April. The business will be called Fireflies.

Wyman and Hendrix have already sold some pieces of their work and have been accepted to participate in the Argenta Art Walk in April, and their work will be on display and for sale at the Thea Foundation in North Little Rock from April 19 through May 4. Most of their artwork is inspired by elements of nature, including flowers, owls and woodpeckers. Each piece takes two to three days to complete. They don’t use computer-aided cutting tools. Everything is cut and hammered by hand before it is welded. Chuck Davis is an economic development specialist with the U.S. Small Business Administration. He said he just happened to see the women’s art when he was visiting ASU-Searcy.

“It was so unique and quality work,” Davis said. “I liked it so well that I commissioned a piece, and then two others.”

The women said Davis is also helping them start their new business.

Although both women said they were a little intimidated when they first began the welding program, they soon became comfortable with the process of welding.

“They’ve been really super supportive and held us to the same standards as the men,” Hendrix said about the women’s advisers, John Reed and Terry McKinney.

“I would encourage any woman to come into this program,” Wyman added. “They’ll be treated with the utmost respect.”

When asked to identify the most difficult thing about learning to weld, both women replied, “Patience.”

Although Wyman admitted that it was very frustrating at first, after a lot of practice and patience, it got easier, she said.

“You have to have a steady hand and a lot of patience. I’ve wanted to throw metal,” Hendrix said with a laugh.

For more information on the women’s artwork, email Hendrix at carolyn.hendrix@smail.asub.edu.

Staff writer Jeanni Brosius can be reached at (501) 244-4307 or jbrosius@arkansasonline.com.

Three Rivers, Pages 117 on 02/12/2012

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