Lily is a rising metal fabricator at Ganas Manufacturing in Detroit, Michigan. However, this wasn’t her original career path. Detroit isn’t even her hometown. She decided to move to Motown from Asheville, North Carolina with a group of likeminded women makers.
“I didn't really know much about Detroit before. I came with a big group of friends who were more familiar, and they were really excited about it. They were like, ‘you can do all these really fun things here!’ but I had no idea what to expect.”
Lily stumbled upon metal work when she was looking a more stable job compared to the freelancing gigs she was getting. She signed-up for an intensive six-week women only metalworking course where she fell in love with this craft. Upon completing the course, she heard about a local shop that made beautiful custom metal pieces, showed-up, asked for an interview, and landed the job at Ganas.
“It's kind of surprising that I ended up doing it. I have different makers in my family, so I grew up seeing the workshop, metal shop, wood shop environment. I've always wanted to make things but never knew how to get into it. When I took the metalworking class and landed the job, I was like, ‘Wow, my life suddenly revolves around this thing’.”
Lily continues to expand her skillset while working as an apprentice under a talented metal fabricator Stephen. She finds that her inspiration doesn’t just come from looking at the completed piece. The journey of learning and discovery motivates Lily to get better every day.
“[Speaking about one specific project] It wasn’t really spectacular or glamorous, but it was the process. The way that we were using more traditional forging and metal forming techniques, instead of just cutting and welding. Using heat in a different way—just figuring it out. I get really excited.”
While there are other working women at Ganas, Lily is the only female metal fabricator. Stephen is an amazing mentor and is very skilled at teaching metalworking as a lead fabricator, however, Lily also faces gender-specific challenges that he can’t teach. For this, she goes outside the shop to local support groups of women makers in predominantly male fields.
These positive women’s groups have been extremely important for Lily’s personal growth. They really helped her to open-up and to learn how to succeed as a woman in these environments—how to be heard, how to be seen, how to stand out when it may not feel comfortable.
“I wonder all the time, ‘Am I qualified to be doing this’, ‘I work with these incredible artists that have gone to school and are trained,’ ‘How did I end up here.’ I’ve been talking with girlfriends who are also in male dominated industries where we don’t have women in power places. Turns out that’s how a lot of women feel. You just have to remember to check yourself. Don't be afraid, take up space, ask questions.”
Today, Lily is laser focused on mastering the art of metal crafting by putting in the time to learn as much as she can no matter how difficult it may be. Tomorrow, she wants share her new skills with others in classrooms and in collaborative spaces.
To see Lily in action checkout our new video, follow her social platforms, and visit the Ganas Manufacturing site.