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Wielding the Pink Hammer

21 February 2013

Wielding the Pink Hammer

UCOL Furniture Making graduate Fiona Stewart wants to see more women with a hammer or a chisel in their hands.

Fiona trained and worked in forestry and carpentry before earning a Diploma in Fine Furniture Design and Making at UCOL in 2011. She excelled on the programme and went on to win First Place in the Novice class at the National Woodskills Festival in Kawerau in her second year.

“Some would say forestry, carpentry or furniture making are a man’s domain,” she says. “In fact, it couldn’t be further from the truth. I’ve done them all and for the most part, I loved it. Sure, back then I often felt I had to work twice as hard as the guys but that’s ok. The satisfaction of seeing my own thought become something solid and real couldn’t be better. I believe unless it is physically impossible or culturally insensitive, if I want to do something I’ll do it!”

Fiona says these days more women work in trades and conditions have improved. Now her personal mission is to encourage more of them into construction and furniture making – starting by helping them learn how to do repairs around their homes.

As a first step, she is running a workshop called The Pink Hammer at Te Manawa on International Women’s Day, on 8 March.

She says the aim is to introduce women to basic carpentry skills that can be learnt easily, and show them how to use proper tools that will make a job at home easier and quicker. “One reason women don’t tackle carpentry is that they are nervous about using the tools. “The Pink Hammer workshop will show them what they can achieve with the simplest and more complicated tools.”

Fiona is not alone in wanting to see more women learning carpentry and construction skills. The Head of UCOL’s Construction programmes, Danny Reilly, says they are exploring the possibility of an all-female Carpentry programme. “It’s a way to encourage girls into carpentry – and there are also teaching advantages. Girls usually learn differently from boys. They’re more verbal: Boys often need to be shown what to do.

Danny says an all-girl group could work on one of UCOL’s house-building projects in the new Trades and Technology Centre in Princess Street. “I imagine there could be some healthy competition – who completes the job better and faster, the girl team of the boy team?”

Danny adds that there are plenty of jobs out there for people with construction skills – regardless of gender.


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