Last month one of my best days was the Sunday I spent with Brenda of Iron Maiden Welding. As I said in my “sneak peek” of this photo shoot, it was full of joy and beauty.
Brenda’s workshop is on the property of her home north-west of Bozeman, next to the garage where her husband and sons work on cars and motorcycles. Somehow the neat house and yard incorporate all the scraps of rusted metal that Brenda keeps on hand for her art. Her workshop yard is like a garden of rusted and colorful metal.
As beautiful as the art and the artist are, the process of producing the art is even more fascinating. Hard work, immense skill and hours of time go into the creation of each piece – as well as inspiration and imagination to envision the outcome when looking down at a random collection of what many would term “junk metal.”
Brenda didn’t just fall into this career by accident. She began welding in high school, and has put a great deal of time and effort into her training and skill development. Although her work often appears spontaneous and carefree, you can be assured that purposeful and carefully made choices lead to her business success.
While I was there, a kind gentleman came by with a truck full of odds and ends of metal objects – things he salvaged from other people’s garbage heaps I imagine. He knew Brenda well – pulling out items she was more than happy to pay him for before he took the rest of his “wares” to the scrap metal recycler.
Brenda takes those items (barrels, tractor parts, fenders from old cars, whatever) and cuts them up – sometimes into random rectangles that will later be pieced into a whole new shape, sometimes into flower petals or butterfly wings. There were even some trout shaped metals lying around the workshop.
Did you know there are chains just like you have on your bike only ten to 20 times bigger? Links that are a full inch and a half thick and more than several inches long? I’m not sure what they come from, but Brenda’s got them, and it is a tease to the imagination to guess what she will do with them someday. Perhaps coiled for the center of a flower . . . or standing tall as the stem.
Even in this modern age, welding is an unexpected occupation for a woman. And when Brenda lifts up that welding hood, it is profoundly impactful to see a woman who could easily be a fashion model staring back at you. Everything about her says grace and beauty, but the process of her work says brute strength and hard work. That juxtaposition intrigues me to no end.
Set off by the back door to the workshop is this guy – a work in progress just for the heck of it. Did you spot one of those super sized chains? And another more like what you have on your bike?
He’s so different from the flowers and the butterflies and the maps of Montana. But there is a vision for him, someday to have a hat and character.
And on the low shelf of the center table, a heart nestled in with the well worn leather gloves.
Sparks fly – when grinding, when cutting, and when welding. It’s fireworks all the time!
While I was there, Brenda was working on a large Montana shaped piece, with colorful bits pieced together to create the landscape. I’ve seen her maps and flowers in Cello, one of my favorite stores in Downtown Bozeman.
We have one of her rusty lizzards gracing the island in our kitchen – a gift to Andy two Christmases ago. And Andy has asked for a special custom piece that you can be sure will be shared here when we get it.
The diversity of personality reflected in the products Brenda produces is amazing!
Watching this wife, mother and welder work was an absolute gift to me!