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Biography


This Is Personal!
 
I'm grateful you're taking your time to get to know me.
Thank you!

Today I'm the happiest human on earth, & not too shabby at welding art, but I didn't start out that way! Growing up I suffered with undiagnosed depression & zero self-esteem which led to me making some bad decisions as a teen. Around 13 I started abusing drugs & alcohol. I was kicked out of two high schools in 1 year, was a run a way, arrested 6 times, on probation twice, lived in & out of detention homes for a few years, & then I got pregnant. (I mean come on, who didn't see that coming?!) I stopped all my partying & settled down to be the best Mom I could be. I had no physical, emotional or financial support from my sons father, but my parents give us a place to live & that was a huge help.

I went back to school at the Alternative High School my senior year with my 2.5 month old son & graduated on time with the highest grades in the school 3 semesters in a row! I worked a full time job after school stocking shelves while my parents watched my son & saved so I could get us our own place. I would get home at 11:30pm & have to be back up at 6:30am to get us to school on time. It was tough but something I'm very proud of. Work ethic has never been a problem!

I had this amazing son whom I loved with every fiber of my being but I still hated myself. To remove myself from myself I started abusing drugs & alcohol again. Because I was abusing myself I attracted relationships & situations that were also abusive, misery loves company. Life went on in this way for many years.

I felt like anything that brought me joy also brought me pain. I was in love with the auto mechanics however I experienced sexism throughout my 7 years in the industry & finally left dejected & more alone than ever, that was my North star for a long time. Somewhere in there I fell in love but when I tried to return home after leaving this abusive relationship my parents denied me & my son a place to stay. We slept in my car a couple nights but I knew my son needed stability & I wasn't it right then so I took him to my parents house where they took him in.

Without him I had nothing & leaving him with my parents is the single hardest thing I've ever done, but I knew I wasn't healthy for him it was the right thing to do.

I needed to get us a place. I took the few resources I had and bought a big ol bag of drugs with the intension of taking my profit & renting an apartment for us but like all my brilliant plans up to that point, that one backfired too. I broke rule number 1 of selling drugs, don't get high on your own supply.

I moved into a camp two of my friends had made in a small patch of wooded land, bartered drugs for my own tent & went to work destroying my brain as best I could. Each of us had something different we specialized in & we were good at marketing, people showed up all hours of the day & night to party. They came & went in a blur.
I bathed in the river, ate nothing, & don't remember sleeping. I thought about killing myself every day. I hated myself & blamed everyone but myself for giving me this life.

I woke up in a field above our camp. Someone was talking but I didn't know who it was. I was on my side with my ear pressed against the cool dirt. I could see the blue sky through the tall stalks of weeds growing in the field. I listened closely until I could make out that the voice was coming from a mouse who was talking to me, he was hidden in the grass somewhere near me. I was a bit upset that he would wake me up. I walked down to camp & no one was there so I walked down to where my car was parked by the main road. I sat in my car with the door open & spaced for a while. My silent revere was broken when a car drove by. Somehow, in the depth of my Hell a memory was triggered. The car belonged to a friend from AA years back & I had the realization for the first time that I was less than a mile from his home. I went on autopilot, got into my car, drove to his home, rang the bell, & asked for the help I knew I needed.

I was emaciated when I arrived at the hospital & they were scared I was going to have a heart attack. I was mentally & physically broken. My Dad told me later he thought I'd never be able to write my name again. After weeks I sobered up enough to realize the pain I caused my son & went into a deeper self hatred than I had every experienced previously. I would Hulk out & destroy furniture & they would send orderlies to sedate me with Thorazine. Nothing they tried could control my self hatred turned outward so I was sent in handcuffs to the state mental hospital. 

Things got worse before they got better. I was kept heavily medicated but still had destructive outbursts that got me shot full of Thorazine, locked in a strait jacket & strapped to a gurney. I had a Dr. with a little bow tie that tried everything from hypnotism to group sessions with me but nothing worked. One day I asked him when I was getting out and he told me NEVER. It was the single greatest gift I ever received.

F@ck You, I'll Show You! I took every ounce of anger I had at myself & turned it into fuel & was out of there 3 days later. I didn't understand the super power I unlocked that day but moving forward it was the single most powerful tool I put in my toolbox for happiness & success!

So, I got out, but I sure was a mess! I was on a handful of pills that kept me zombied out & I couldn't yet live on my own so a family from AA took me in. I went to meetings & got to see my son occasionally. I finally got healthy enough to get my own apartment, a no bedroom sweltering dump on the 3rd floor or a sweltering dump. I took a bus to the mall & walked to my sons school & brought him home to the horror of my parents. I enrolled him in the elementary school two blocks away & we skipped to school every morning. When I picked him up after school he would run to me and I would swing him in a circle. All was right in the world until a few days later I met my future ex husband. 

He was loving, protective, & fiercely loyal, which was everything I was missing, but he was 6 days out of prison, where he had been in & out of since he was old enough. We both did the absolute we could with the damage we showed up with but fast forward 6 years & we were unhappily married, broke, & living in the projects. It wasn't for lack of trying, we were working 7 days a week hauling scrap metal & I was selling stuff on Ebay but no matter how hard we worked we could never seem to get ahead.

In early 2007 we sat down with our neighbors to watch the movie Cast Away starring Tom Hanks, & a couple minutes into the movie I saw this woman sculpting these big angel wings in her barn. Seeing this was like being hit by lightning & I knew in that moment I must be a metal sculptor. This didn't make any sense because I had no artistic ability to speak of, unless you count making box forts, & I had never welded before, but nonetheless I spent the rest of the movie trying to figure out how I could do that, how I could sculpt metal! 

I felt like this is what I've been training for all my life, I was already obsessed with the TV shows Biker Build Off, Monster Garage, & Junkyard Wars, but it never dawned on me I could weld or fabricate. I visited our local BOCES where I attended the automotive program in high school & asked about their welding program. I was so excited about the possibility of learning to weld but when they told me it cost $1,200 my heart dropped. 

That year we had earned $10,000 to support our family of five, there was barely enough to pay bills. I was not deterred. I went home & told my husband I was going to go to welding school & that it cost $1,200. His answer was no. I went to my parents & asked to borrow money & that was a no. Everyone thought it was ridiculous & they were right but I knew with every fiber of my being this is what I was meant to do so I decided to work extra hard & save.

In October 2007 I struck my first arc in welding school. I was in love with it long before I ever picked up a torch! My teacher, Jim Ostrum, taught the way my Dad does, learning by doing, & I thrived in his classroom. I let everyone know I was going to be a sculptor & Mr. Ostrum nurtured my passion. He was the first person to support me & was absolutely instrumental in me becoming who I am today. Let me take a moment to honor him publicly. Mr. Ostrum, to say your support & knowledge drastically improved my life is an understatement. I am eternally grateful! Thank you Sir! 

I still have the first welding project I made in school. I beam with pride every time I see it!

Close to the end of the 6 month course Mr. Ostrum starts telling me about a local custom fabrication shop he thinks I should go apply to. Well, that's not going to happen I think! I had no desire to ever work for anyone again after the sexism I experienced in the automotive industry. I assumed the welding industry would be the same. Each time he approached me to go talk to his friend Kenny & apply for the job I turned him down. I had no idea what my logical next step was but it wasn't working for the man. I needed to weld as much as I needed to breathe but I didn't see a way at that time. We were living in the ghetto & there was no garage to weld in if I had the money to buy a welder to put in a garage. Graduation grew near. 

We showed up for one of the last classes & Mr. Ostrum announces were going on a field trip. Over to Cameron Manufacturing & Design we go & his friend Kenny gives us a tour. I was hooked. Here were all the machines & equipment I saw on the fabrication shows I was watching. I applied for the job & asked for $10 an hour figuring I was worth $9 & it would give me some wiggle room. I passed their welding test & a couple written tests & they offered me $13 an hour. I bawled like a baby. Not only would I get to keep welding but now I was getting paid for it & I would be making more than 3 times what I earned in the previous year working only 40 hours a week! It was a huge boost for my very low self esteem, I needed a win. 

It was hard work physically & even harder work mentally. I thought I knew what I was doing when I first showed up but I spent the first year grinding out my welds & remaking a lot of stuff. Their standards were high & it was a humbling experience to be called to Quality Control over the loudspeaker. Everyone in the 200 person shop knew you screwed up. I worked hard to improve!

As I learned new skills my self esteem & confidence grew. I felt capable & happy. I was moving closer to my goal every day.

I was not comfortable with the decisions my husband was making & after many years of trying I chose to move on. It was easy & difficult. I had two sons by then & felt like if I stayed it would be like telling them his behavior was acceptable. I didn't want them to believe this is how a man acts so I took my clothes & left him everything.

The next couple years were challenging, again I had no support but I worked diligently to provide for my boys. I loved them & my job & it made the challenges not so challenging. Their love & support have gotten me through some very tough times.

  Early on I started welding art during my breaks at work. I knew how to weld & fabricate, but I had no idea how to make art, didn't know the fancy names people use to describe art, & my only contribution to art class was in middle school I used a tongue depressor to brake an overhead projector, however, when I sat down for the first time to create welding art just happened naturally for me. The fabrication skills I learned allowed me to see what I needed to do to take the picture I had in my head & make it an object I could hold in my hand.

I fixed my credit & was able to buy our first home in 2011. The attached one car garage was earmarked for my welding shop but it took me two more years before I was able to save up for a Harbor Freight TIG & plasma cutter & a Lincoln 110v MIG. I struck my first arc in my new shop in November 2013 & 40 hours later I had a 3 tier chandelier hanging from my garage ceiling. Don't ask me where the idea came from but there it was in all it's glory. I took several pictures & then bawled like a baby when I tried to post it to my Facebook page. I was terrified. I had spent the last four & a half years working up to this moment, I told everyone & their mother I was going to weld art, I wouldn't shut up about it, but now that the moment to share my art with the world was here I felt like I was going to puke. I worked day & night for 6.5 years to get to that moment & I was so scared of what other people would think & I imagined the worst & my thoughts about it made me feel physically sick to my stomach.

I momentarily forgot who I was creating the sculpture for. I forgot I was creating for me. I started this adventure because welding sculpture seduced my soul. I was drawn to welding like a moth to a flame, it took away my free choice, I needed it as much as I needed to breathe. I loved to weld, I was proud of my design & craftsmanship, the chandelier was what I had dedicated my life to, I made it for me because it pleased me, so who gives a rats tiny ass what anyone else thinks about it, it's MY art, created for me.
It took me 24 hours to come to this realization & in November 2013 I posted the pictured of the chandelier to my personal Facebook page & I couldn't have been more wrong, people said the nicest things.

I welded a few sculptures & any job that came through my door, a 3D Buffalo Bills sign, some horseshoe art, gun cabinets & security windows for the local gun shop, I was in my glory. I worked all day at Cameron MFG & nights & weeks spent in my garage creating anything I could come up with. My parents, who were against me learning to weld in the beginning, were now onboard with my lucrative welding career, but they forgot to read the program & their hopes & dreams were about to go up in smoke. 


In August of 2014 after receiving my journeyman distinction in iron plate & sheet metal I announced to my boss & parents that I'll be quitting my job on the first of September to go full time as an artist. I don't know what they said at the shop but my Dad said I was making the biggest mistake of my life, he was furious, & my Mom cried. I felt like no one had my back. It was awful. I was already fighting my own demons, I didn't need any more. 

Work threw a retirement party for me, the first in history for someone who didn't put in 25+ years, & passed a card. It's still to this day what I feel is the highest honor, the respect of a fellow craftsman. Those guys are family & I'm eternally grateful for them. I stand on their talented shoulders. Thank you Cameron family, I love you!

So, I cash in my 401k, the $6k personal loan I took out the day before I quit my job, yes, I'm gainfully employed, & the savings I had & spent the next 9 months working my tail off & getting no where. I had two things working against me, I didn't think of myself as a business so I wasn't branding, marketing, or selling my art, & I had a boyfriend who unbeknownst to me was using me for my money & going through my meager savings quickly. 

I had much better self esteem but that wasn't saying a lot. My desire to be loved was so great that I missed every red flag he was waving & when the smoke cleared my savings was gone & I was beat up. It crushed me. The mental anguish of being used hurt more than the bruises, how could you not see that coming? Why can't things be easy for once? I tumbled back into depression. I had been happy for years, but I easily stepped off the edge of happy & freefell into the cold embrace of the familiar downward spiral of depression. 

I had $85 in my bank account & I didn't see any way I could make this pig fly but I also didn't have any quit in me. I cried. Even though I had left my job with the utmost respect & they said I was welcome back any time, going back was never an option for me. Going back would be saying I failed & there was no freaking way I'd ever let my boys see that. I had to find a way.

I saw an ad on Facebook for an event in Millerton, PA for a Memorial Day event they were having they needed vendors for. I thought that might be a good way to sell art, so I signed up for the event & sent in the $35  to set up. It was a two day event so I took the back seat out of my Jeep & packed it full of art I'd been creating & drove 45 minutes to the event grounds. I set up a folding table with art on it & a couple end stands I made. I didn't sell anything the first evening but we made friends with a family that were still friends with today. That friendship bolstered me up when I really needed it, you never know the power in the kindness of strangers. My youngest & I slept in the back of the Jeep that night & the next day I made $40 & bartered for some maple syrup It doubled the money I had in the bank so I saw it as a massive success. 

The next weekend I heard about an event in my hometown called the Erin Woodfest, which hosts the New York State chainsaw carving championship. It cost my $35 to sign up to be a vender, so I showed up in the Jeep with my son & we set up a 8x8 tent with about 30 things I made. I had spoon rings, tables, can holders for picnics made with sawblades & horsehshoes, silverware people, & some bookends. My neighbors had been hearing banging & loud music coming out of my garage for almost a year by then & no one knew what I had been up to until I unloaded the Jeep. To say my neighbors were supportive was an understatement. I sold $165 in art at that show. I got a good kick in the confidence from it but there was a much more impactful experience I had that weekend that gave me an understanding that is still my north star to this day & lesson #1 for any artist, STAY TRUE LIVE FREE.

At first when I went full time as an artist I was making tons of art working 14-16 hours a day happily welding and creating. I would share what I was making online but nothing was selling. As the money started NOT rolling in I started getting scared I would fail & ramped my hours up to 16-18 hour days. As I was creating my thoughts were consumed with failure, how everyone else was right and I was wrong, & how I was failing magnificently. I imagined every secretly talking behind my back as I had to go back to my job and say I couldn't make it. I was crippling. 

When I set up at the Erin Woodfest that's where I was, creating out of fear of failure, however by the time I packed up my tent I was an entirely different artist. 

The Woodfest had chainsaw artists, people who use chainsaws to sculpt wood into amazing giant works of art. Well, I'd never seen anything like it, I was absolutely mesmerized! They get 10 or so carvers and give them an hour to create and an hour later when the two stroke smoke settles they've got these amazing works of art. I was watching a group create, they were 3/4 of the way through and I happened to see this guy working with a pair of headphones on, you could tell they had music because he was dancing ever so slightly as he worked. With the saw idling he took two long steps backwards and drank in what he was creating. He narrowed his eyes studying the sculpture and nodded his head.

If you know you know. There's this moment in creation where the artist observes, as a whole, what they have brought into existence and approves. This is a very personal moment. If you've been lucky enough in your life to experience this just once you'll never forget it. 
It's a moment I had many times in creating sculptures, starting with the very first sculpture, but it wasn't happening lately. It only happens when you create for yourself, and lately I had been paying attention to my fear of being a starving artist and not getting paid for my art instead of creating art because it was what I was drawn to do, what set my soul on fire and made my heart sing. Creating art pulled me out of the depth of depression. Who cares if I make money, I just wanted that feeling back again, I wanted to create because I must, the money would work itself out. Here another 15 second moment in time deeply impacted my future. STAY TRUE LIVE FREE. Make art because you must make art, stay true to who you are and your freedom is happiness. When you are happy the world opens itself to you.

I met two other people at that event that we became instant friend and they invited me to tag along with them to Coney Island for another event they were doing. I didn't have to pay for that one only give the owners money if I sell so I could afford to set up but couldn't afford to get there. Another carver offered a ride and in 2 days I made more money than I did in the entire year, $635, which I got to keep 2/3rds after paying the owners to set up. I felt like a million dollars! 

After seeing the carvers make art live and sell it I thought that would be my gig too so I went to local shops asking if they would sponsor welding curtains so I could make a live welding show. it was close to 20 no's before I got a YES! Praxair Gas in Elmira, Ny donated 4 curtains with frames gave me a banner and I was in business!

I bullshitted my way right into the Americade Motorcycle Raley! It was a week long event up in Lake George and it cost $1,800 for a vending spot. I emailed the people and asked them if they thought their audience would be interested in a live art welding show. I told them I normally charge $500 a day, which was total horseshit, I never welded live once, but for them I would barter for the $1,800 booth setup if they give me a 20x10 area and provide electric. They said yes and I got my first gig. Everything else was real easy to book after that!

The next two years went pretty much like that, I'd tag along with the carvers sometimes landing my own shows I had to pay for. I'd spend all week welding art and then Friday night when my son got home from school id load up the jeep and wed travel up and down the east coast. I traded the Jeep in for a truck and it was a lot more comfortable for sleeping. Id lay in the front seat and my son in the back. It felt luxurious. I'd make a commission or two a month and the rest of the art I was quickly mass producing at home and then spend the weekend traveling and setting up at events and hopefully selling. I learned what sold and was making more and more. I was selling on Etsy at the same time and between the shows and online I was starting to fill my bank account but my soul was not as full.

In 2016 I traveled to 48 shows, and 2017 was similar. During this time I was also teaching how to weld art through videos I was making for my YouTube channel and wrote my first book. It was exhausting and the art I was mass producing wasn't pushing my skills so I made a really bold move, I decided that as of the 1st of the year, it was August 2017, I would only do 3 shows and I'd learn to sell online. My Esty was selling $0-$135 a month and it wasn't consistent. It was crazy to cut off my main stream of income like that, but it wasn't about the money for me, it's about the creation. I followed my inner knowing and took my skills and business to a level I didn't know existed. I poopooed the money, kept creation first and ended up making way more than I ever imagined possible. 

Through hard work, creative emails, and dedication to self, my business has introduced me to some of my heros, given me opportunities to create for worldwide brands, write 6 books, meet and help people all over the world, oh yeah, and I get to make cool stuff and people pay me! 

I think you will agree I have earned the right to humble brag on myself!

Against all odds I have, for the last 9 glorious years, been a full time artist. In that time I have...

Designed & created art for clients in 15 countries!
Designed & created 5 public sculptures!
Written & published 6 books!
Donated thousands of dollars to charitable causes I love!
Produce thousands of videos that are regularly viewed by people in 52 countries!
Welded live at SEMA in Vegas. 
Welded live at Americade!

What's more impressive than my accomplishments however, is that I'm no longer depressed. The decisions I make for myself reflect the love I've grown for my being and the being I've grown myself into. I'm not perfect, I get sad days, and angry moments, but I bounce back to happy naturally like I used to bounce back to depression. Looking back it was easy for me to see my ways of thinking and being that created the life I hated and attracted the negativive peopel and situations. 

Two of the books I wrote, The Inspiration Blueprint & F@ck You Fuel, share step by step how I went from deep depression to a life beyond my wildest dreams & by using those steps YOU can do the same thing for yourself! They're available on my Shop page but if you need one & can't afford it email me, I've been where you are & I know the information I share in the books is exactly what I needed when I was. Please let me share this with you, receiving this gift is the first step to allowing good into your life, and you deserve that. 

I told you this was personal!

It's been a journey worthy of a movie already & I'm just getting started! Stick around & see what I do next!
 
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