From teaching ballet to singing and dancing in a Taiwanese theme park and working on a Kalgoorlie mine, Workshop member Meg is clearly game for anything.
The multi-talented Meg is as comfortable with a power saw in hand as she is on the stage, and is now trying to give other women the confidence to D.I.Y.
Meg recently founded She Skills in her home town of Brisbane to teach basic woodworking and power tool skills to women. “The mission is to empower women by providing them with the opportunity to gain the skills and confidence to imagine, design and create anything.”
Growing up on a Queensland farm, Meg spent her childhood “riding horses, mustering cattle, picking pumpkins, painting fences, changing irrigation pipes and various other forms of child labour”. “We had a huge amount of freedom to explore on our own,” Meg recalls. “I have very fond memories of mischievous adventures with my siblings and kids from neighbouring farms.”
Meg has also learned a lot of skills from her husband Clint, a former acrobat and cabinet maker who she met while singing and dancing in Taiwan. “I feel very fortunate to have someone teach me,” says Meg. “I used to say to Clint ‘Can you build me this?’ and he would reply ‘I can build anything!’ How awesome is that?”
The idea for She Skills classes evolved over time, Meg says. “Clint and I have always loved working together and we have often dreamed about having a workshop where locals could come to imagine, design and create together.”
Extra catalyst came from some tough times. “I went through a rough time last year that required me to take time off work. Getting outside and building stuff provided me some much needed therapy and I thought that other women could benefit from learning these skills”
The energetic Meg, who once hiked 100kms in less than 30 hours to raise money for Oxfam, says she gets great joy from sharing her skills with others. “I especially love teaching skills that stretches someone completely out of their comfort zone. I want to help women wrestle with that fear that we often harbour because of the roles and behaviours that we were raised to adopt. It still exists within me. I will sometimes think to myself ‘I will have to get Clint to fix that’ and then I realise I can do it myself.”
Meg’s tips for D.I.Y. newcomers include looking for information from a variety of sources, including magazines, tradies, friends, YouTube clips and the local hardware store. “The only stupid questions are the ones you don’t ask.”
Meg also recommends that people “don’t reinvent the wheel too soon”. “There are thousands of plans on the internet and in magazines. Take advantage of other people’s learnings until you feel confident to design your own project.” She also encourages people to find things that they can repurpose, and join forces with others.
“Look for a maker-space in your town or city,” Meg continues. “These are often community groups that provide space and resources for you to build and fix stuff by paying a small membership fee. If there isn’t one of those where you live, then start your own."
Meg feels that encouraging more women to try their hand at D.I.Y. or take up a trade needs to start from a young age. “There’s a great teaching tool called The Marshmallow Challenge where people have to construct a tower using raw spaghetti, string, tape and a marshmallow,” Meg says. “Pre-school age children test extremely well in this activity because they build and test prototypes as they go. They are basically playing.
“Adults try and solve all the problems first and then never have enough time to complete the project. Children are extremely creative, but then somewhere along the line we will all find ourselves in the ‘pink aisle’ of the toy section where all the toys are based around the girl stereotype. While there’s nothing wrong with girls wanting to play with dolls (I had plenty), I encourage parents to encourage their boys and girls to help with technical and physical tasks at home. They’ll thank you for it one day!”
Meg has lived in three different countries and eight different Australian cities, moving house over 20 times. Her current home is a lovely little apartment on the Brisbane River. “So far we have replaced ugly old carpet with engineered timber floors, painted the interior crisp white and fitted it out with a collection of recycled timber furniture and a few antiques. I’m not sure if we have a style, but I guess it’s kind of industrial.
“The next project will be to design, build and install a new kitchen. The walk-in robe and laundry cupboards need to have all new shelves built. We’d also like to refit our bathroom but we’ll be enlisting the help of a few qualified tradespeople on that one. It’s never ending!”
Meg’s favourite project was a beautiful recycled table. “I bought an old laundry door which must have had at least 10 coats of paint that had to be stripped off.
"I got beat-up, recycled timber for it and we made the most beautiful outdoor table complete with some pretty fancy joinery work by my husband.”
Her favourite tool is a sander. “A sander has the ability to transform dull, neglected, rough timber into something shiny, smooth and full of life.
"My husband actually passes this job off to me as his trades assistant but I actually quite enjoy it. It’s therapeutic.”
Meg was keen to join the Workshop community as “we are makers at heart and we want to connect and share ideas with like-minded people”.
“In a world of rampant consumption and keeping up with the latest trends on Instagram, the simple art of making something with your own hands can bring you immeasurable pleasure,” Meg says.
“And if it’s made well, it might just last you a lifetime.”
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