I love that in my current role I am surrounded by female carpenters in their 60’s and hearing the stories they share, we have certainly come a long way.
How have you got to where you are?
I came to Carpentry a little bit later on in life and have really enjoyed using my hands and being able to feed my creative curiosity. Following my apprenticeship, I couldn’t see myself as a carpenter ongoing (decision related somewhat to knee damage sustained during football), my knees were a bit too creaky for that kind of lifestyle. I did learn some very helpful skills and was super proud of myself having achieved something post football. So, after 8 or so months as a qualified ‘chippy’ I left my employer and took to a year with a local furniture maker, Pete Bollington (Curious Tales). It was during this time I learnt of TwoSheds Workshop.
Before I knew it I was teaching and I haven’t really looked back. I am facilitating a wonderfully creative and safe space for woodworkers of all shapes and sizes. I love the diversity of my role at the workshop, especially teaching kids and adults. Some of my favourite moments to witness and often support a new woodworker towards, are those ‘aha’ moments, the times when ‘it’ clicks, following deliberate practice and perseverance.
Jo (founder and director of Two Sheds) has been such a joy to have come across. She is one of the finest humans I know and I get to call her my boss! Looking forward to and enjoying contributing to the momentum of TwoSheds Workshop and seeing where thing journey leads.
I love that in my current role I am surrounded by female carpenters in their 60’s and hearing the stories they share, we have certainly come a long way. Still areas to improve upon, but it is really very cool to see so many young, strong, capable young women coming through the tradie ranks.
What inspired you to do a trade?
I retired from football 6 years ago. I was lost. I tried a lot of roles within the football world, David Gallop offered me some work at the FFA and Fox Sports was an option too. I felt quite torn as I had so much to give football but it wasn’t filling me up anymore. Detaching myself from my footballing identity was inevitable and particularly hard. I pondered my next move and an opportunity to work as a builders labourer popped up when I was living in Sydney’s Northern Beaches, and 6 weeks later, Toddy offered me an apprenticeship with him… Todd was very helpful in this period of change. I hadn’t ‘played’ football for 2 and a half years when I began my apprenticeship. But still had a lot to work through. The apprenticeship has grounded me in more ways than one. I have been most grateful for the bosses who have helped me through it, I don’t know if Todd (nor my boss after relocating to Canberra, Drew) realised how much they have contributed to my life/path.
How did you feel entering a male dominated industry?
Given my previous career as a footballer, the male dominated realm didn’t really intimidate me. Sure I could feel every day that I was a minority in the building world. But, it fueled me to further prove myself. I have also been lucky with the two bosses, they were rather sensitive new age dudes!
What advice you would give your past self?
Your perfectionistic tendencies will be a great strength for you but also a weakness ("The weakness of Strength Theory” - Alain De Botton if anyones interested…). Brace yourself for a bumpy and adventurous ride and don’t worry you will never wish for a different one, you’re exactly where you need to be, just go gently, be patient, stay connected, and be kind to yourself.
What advice you would give to women thinking of getting into a trade?
If you are at all curious. Reach out to someone who has had a taste of it already and ask them about their journey in to a trade. Although a minority group, there are A LOT of female tradies out there with cool stories and they are often super friendly and happy to help out.
What are you most proud of?
I consider myself an interesting person with a pretty decorative past. I have chosen to be outspoken about my challenges and I have forever been curious about how I can improve on being a better person. So perhaps ownership of my self development and my vulnerability?
What are the challenges you've had?
The biggest personal challenge I have had is my own mental ill health. Early on in my football career, I developed an eating disorder. The reason my eating disorder surfaced was not the reason it stuck around, this challenged me for a long time and it was very secretive from about 15 to 19 years old, I decided to get help following telling signs picked up by football staff and the very fact that I was not going to be able to get better on my own.
My ED behaviours/depressive tendencies became very strong at times during my life, and over the years has revisited in waves. Nowadays, as of the last few years, I am mostly recovered. It’s very important that I maintain a healthy moderate approach to food and movement and forever surround myself with supportive friends and family. Over the last 10 years, I have been engaged with a Psychologist, seeing Sally (Hughson) has been a very important piece to my life’s puzzle. She has not only helped me confront my ED related issues but also helped me be a better human in general. I am a big advocate for therapy, regardless of your status in life.
What support have you had?
My family have always been there for me on all of my adventures, especially my mum and dad. Riding the highs and helping out when things haven’t been so smooth. Forever grateful for the love and support I have received and always felt from my immediate and extended family.
My beautiful wife April, I couldn’t imagine my life without her. Simple.
If you want to follow Sal's journey, check out her Instagram @madebyherhands