by Rachel Evans Heath
As floral designers we have all sorts of tools, floral or otherwise, in our aprons, workshops, or toolboxes. We know how to handle a sharp knife, wire cutters, or even a staple gun. We use all these tools regularly.
But what about power tools?
With a large majority of designers being women, the pattern, it seems, is that we know how to quickly steam an aisle runner, but are less comfortable with the bigger electric tools: power drills, table saws, and hammer guns, to name a few.
Did you know that most power tools are often made larger, louder, and heavier than necessary? Some dangerous tools need to be loud to warn those around them to be on guard and not get too close. However, a lot of the unnecessary bulk is kept, to better cater to their male customers. Men liking power tools is the cliché we all hear, fed by such characters as Tim “the tool man” Taylor from Home Improvement, or the burly men illustrated into our children’s books or animated shows, holding a crazed and uncontrollable jack hammer.
But with a recent realization of just how far a designer’s work could expand when incorporating power tools, it has become our mission at Flirty Fleurs to help inspire our female readers to expand their designs via the world of power tools. And to help show us the way, we will be featuring one designer a month from whom we might take inspiration: inspiration from their work, their zeal and their incorporation of power tools.
So starting us off is the woman who inspired this series:
Introducing Emily Anderson from Lola Creative in Edmonds, WA.
Emily’s business has expanded outside the realm of just floral design, as she and her team specialize in large, custom pieces of unique art, and flowers, often for large events. They’ve been tackling large installations since 2010.
But Emily’s journey has not always been an easy one. Emily was taught to weld and handle particular tools while studying sculpture at the University of Washington. She describes the condescension she endured while trying to learn and grow more familiar with tools:
“For years, on job sites as a project manager, someone would always ask if I was in high school. Every. Single. Time. …among other condescension. It was hard to gain respect as someone who knew what they were doing- and granted, I had (and still do have) TONS to learn. It was hard to be taken seriously and I remember wishing that I looked older and knew more.
My reaction was to try and be tough and I always felt I needed to prove myself. It’s pushed me to want to learn as much as possible, but looking back, I wish I just let it go and asked more questions. I tended to want to look like I had all the answers and then go home and figure it out rather than using those crews and people with lots of experiences for the resources they were.
I guess I overcame by learning to not fear looking like an amateur. Now I know that I mostly don’t know what I’m doing and am okay with that. Maybe 40% know what I’m doing, 60% figuring it out as I go. I know enough to know I can figure it out.”
But she’s come a long way since college. She encouragingly explains:
“Many women are perfectionists and often have a heightened fear of looking like an amateur. If it’s feeling stupid that keeps you from doing something you want to, know that feeling stupid is the precursor to learning and knowledge.
Just because you might feel apprehensive around tools, doesn’t mean it’s not what you should be doing. If you are curious about it, you should probably do it. Power tools are just dumb, loud machines. They’re predictable too.”
We don’t all have to have a college degree in sculpture to learn how better to handle tools. She says anyone can start anywhere.
“You can really learn how to build anything on Youtube”, she stated. “I would suggest looking for a basic project. If you don’t have your own tools, or someone’s garage to rifle through, your city may have a tool library. Tool rental is crazy cheap at a tool library.”
From there, Emily says it’s just a matter of practice.
“Things only get less scary by repeatedly doing it. I remember thinking when I first started driving, ‘how could anyone be okay doing this.’ But through practice you know what noises to expect, how much power each tool has, how much power you need to exert to control each tool, and what the most likely bad thing to happen would be. By practice you learn that the ‘most likely bad thing’ probably isn’t going to happen.”
But let’s be real for a minute here: there’s a reason we sometimes get nervous around a large table saw. I mean, it definitely can cut off an appendage right? Of course the answer there is yes. It can. But Emily has good news for apprehensive women:
“Luckily, I think most women have a heightened sense of self-protection. So we’re more likely to step away from something than just ‘making something work’ with a lack in preparation and safety.
I actually just learned that ladder incidents were the greatest number of on the job deaths in this industry. But in all those deaths, 100% of them were men. So, I think we women are safe. Just kidding.”
Okay, so maybe you’re willing to give something new a try. What tool does Emily recommend starting off with?
“My favorite tool is a little Milwaukee cordless circular saw. I love it because it’s really light and compact. Without the cord, it takes away the worry about where the cord is- and avoiding cutting it. But if you are looking to buy your first tool, I’d recommend a cordless drill. From there, start making holes and attaching things together to start learning how different materials react. I’d also recommend learning how to measure, scale, and draw out ideas before building. It’s the foundation in planning any build.”
(Emily is actually developing an online course right now that will teach this. Watch CuriousLola.com for more information.)
Feeling inspired yet? If not, let us send you off with a few last thoughts from Emily.
I feel like a powerful woman and a large part of that is because I know that anything I dream up, I can build. And I am no master of anything, I can just make stuff go together and have it not fall over.
But it’s important to know I don’t wait for permission anymore. I don’t wait for an opportunity for someone to show me how to do something, I seek it out. I’m not waiting for someone to ask me to participate. My opportunities are self-made.
Tools, construction and even architecture are dominated by men- Having worked in the world of architecture as a woman, I can only imagine what a world of women builders looks like and how that would transform the built environment. I’m curious not only what it would look and feel like, but what those materials and processes would be like. Construction and events can be terribly wasteful if we’re not careful. So many industries can use a shake up- and it’ll come.
I get that we are only doing events, but it starts with girls being told that tools are for them and that changing their environment by construction and building is something they should do.
I love that any kids wandering by our workshop see a roomful of women with tools.
Be sure to check out this video of the Lola Creative team building a 10×26′ foam-free flower wall using moss for infill, metal display grid, and some rigging and truss for its support- it was in a wind tunnel outside… in August.
(All images in today’s post have been provided by Lola Creative.)
YOU COULD BE FEATURED ON THE FLIRTY FLEURS BLOG!
Know someone (you?) who should be featured on our Women With Tools series? Have them email us at firstname.lastname@example.org,
subject line: Women With Tools Applicant.
Tell us who you are, a little about your design work, and your favorite power tool to use. Include at least 2 pictures of recent projects you’ve done that required power tools and tell us a little about each.