What does a day in your work life look like?
I wake up, hit the gym for a 6am bootcamp, come home to feed the kids and send them off to school. I then throw on the workboots and head into the shop to get creating!
What made you start doing the amazing things that you do?
I started my welding journey in high-school. I wasn't getting the best of grades, so decided to try something different and took all of the shop classes. The shop teacher in my small town was so encouraging and recognized my ability when it came to working with my hands and creating. If it weren't for his push in the direction meant for me, I probably wouldn't have felt the confidence to choose it. I went right into college ad was a Journeyman at 21, I have now been a welder for over 20 years.
Did you complete any training? If not, how did you learn your trade/skill?
I have gone to University for my apprenticeship as a welder. 4 years of school plus I have taken extra courses to get specialized tickets for welding.
What do you have to sacrifice to be good at what you do?
Being a mama and running a business can feel like a struggle sometimes. Always trying to respond to people, get out quotes, invoices and ordering what I need can definitely feel hard to balance. My family has a great level of understanding and patience with giving me the time I need to run this business, but I do feel a sense of overwhelm is trying to do it all on my own.
What are you great at, and what do you suck at?
This is an easy question for me. I know that I am good at what I do, I love being creative and designing things, but I love building the things the most. That part of my business I know I have covered, but the organization side of business is definitely not my strong suit. Learning to be disciplined to do jobs in order of getting them, and also being disciplined enough to make sure im using my time wisely. Sometimes my creative mind gets away from me and I need to build what's in my head rather than what's on the list.
What do you want people to know about being a woman in your field?
I think being a woman in the field has changed so much over the last 20 years. When I started my first welding job, I felt like I had to 'be one of the guys' to fit into the workplace, but nowadays there is far more respect for women to still be women, you don't have to be a 'tomboy' to be a welder. I believe there is so much opportunity for women (and men alike) to follow their passions. Whatever stage you're starting at, just look for the opportunities that are there, because they're everywhere! Stay close to those who support you, and trust their encouragement. Stay confident in all your choices, don't beat yourself up when (it's WHEN not IF!) you make mistakes because that is what leads to growth. I still make mistakes all the time, but knowing that I'm further ahead for learning from my mistakes still makes for a sense of accomplishment.
What are the top five things that are always in your pockets?
I always have a pocket full of nuts and washers, sharpies, earplugs, my missing wrenches, usually a striker.
What are you doing when you’re not working hard?
When I'm not in the shop, I spend a lot of time outdoors. I have a family who loves camping, boating, fishing and hunting so we take every opportunity to be outside and enjoy adventure. We have a lot of jet boats and I enjoy both working on them and boating in our local rivers.
Tell us something surprising about you.
I got lucky enough to be asked to be part of the TV show - Rust Valley Restorers. My good friend asked if I could be part of his fabrication team for his really awesome builds he had planned, and now I'm onto my 3rd season of working with him on some incredible car builds. It's been one of the coolest experiences I've got to be part of.
How do you encourage other women to start doing what you do?
I share so much on social media, the good and the bad. I feel it's important for women to know it's not always easy to balance the life of a woman/mama and a respected business owner in a male dominated industry, but it's certainly not impossible. Making sure you can get through the bad (lots of negative and disrespectful comments) while maintaining confidence that those things truly don't matter. I always make sure to stay true to myself, remember why I do what I do, and never let the naysayers knock me down. I hope to connect with as many women as I can to share my journey and help encourage them through theirs.
Do you have any special projects or cool things you want people to check out?
Lately I feel like I have been doing so many handrailings, that it can feel like I've lost a bit of my creative touch, but I have some really awesome projects coming up. I'm making a revolving door for a saddle room and a few customs signs for people. The ones that are most special to me are the ones I can make from scrap steel and recycled tools.
Let’s get deep. Workwear specifically by and for women- what does it mean to you, how does it affect your life and why is it important, philosophically?
I started in trades in 2000, I was 15 years old. I never had a good experience trying to find anything from steel toed boots to coveralls. Back then all I had available was size small men's workwear. I tried all the smallest size stuff, but being a smaller girl, everything was so big. My first job out of college I had been given coveralls by the company, but they were for a small man, not a small women. My first day on the job I was using a grinder and because the coveralls were so big, the grinder got caught in them and tore apart the whole front of the coveralls and my whole shirt. I was lucky it didn't get my skin, but that's when I realized the importance of proper fitting gear. It wasn't until I found Dovetail Workwear as I was wandering Instagram a few years back, that I FINALLY had found some workwear that was not only durable, but fit me like a glove. As hard as I am on these jeans, they seem to last forever. I have mega respect for the women who took the time to realize this was an issue and came out with something incredible.
Follow Rachel Bohnet on Instagram here.