Arlington Heights resident Pamela Olin began welding 16 years ago when she was seven months pregnant with her second child.
"I had ideas that I thought best expressed in steel," she said.
She soon became a nationally known welding artist, and beginning this fall, Olin will teach two classes at Harper College: "Welding for Women" and "Make Your Own Garden Structure." Both are noncredit courses that will introduce women to the concepts of welding.
Welding is a sculptural process that brings materials together, of which metal is the most commonly used.
"They can really create anything they can imagine," Olin said. "My art projects don't get shoved under the bed when they get home."
Olin, a first-time instructor at Harper, approached the department director about starting the classes after doing an independent study at the Palatine community college last spring. "She came in with a unique proposal," said Scott Cashman, Harper's continuing education manager.
Cashman said he is excited the class will apply welding to the arts and believes it will be a nice addition to other three-dimensional art classes, like pottery.
"It's an aspect of art that I really wanted to be able to build on," Cashman said, adding that such classes offer Harper students a more well-rounded education.
Olin said there were only two other women last spring who worked in the campus welding rooms. After speaking with one of them, she said it was clear that instructors need to use a different language to help women relate to welding.
"When I work with a torch, I think of it almost as an eyeliner brush," she said. "Guys talk different from girls and we have a whole other frame of reference."
Olin said her goal is to bring more women into the welding program. While she is an artist, she talked about the many uses and purposes of welding. Students can make anything they want in her class, including furniture. She said she wants "to encourage women to try things they would never picture themselves in."
Olin said welding is enjoyable and allows the artist to relax and rejuvenate.
"It sort of lets you step away from the rest of things that are bugging you in life," she said. "It's almost like the Zen of welding."
The classes will be taught Saturday mornings for four weeks, with "Welding for Women" beginning Sept. 26 and "Make Your Own Garden Sculpture" beginning Oct. 24. Welding experience is not required and one does not need to be a Harper student to enroll.
For more information about the courses or other continuing education courses, call (847) 925-6300. For more information about Pamela Olin, see pamelaolin.com.