After 25 years in the trades, Eli Bryant knows a thing or two about competence on the job site. She talked with us about her history sculpting, time teaching and more.
What’s your title/occupation/moniker for your work?
Which job? I work for Oregon Tradeswomen, Inc. (OTI) teaching trades as a Field Instructor. I work for bronze sculptor Martin Eichinger as a Sculptor's Assistant and Shop Manager. And I’m a stone sculptor artist.
One of Eli's first sculptures
What made you start doing the amazing things that you do?
I’ve always been a maker. My mother chased me out of the kitchen as a kid because I used our silverware as tool blanks... But really, I wanted to feel secure. I left home at 15 and knew I never wanted to worry about being out of a job. Trades are needed everywhere. I happened to be very good with my hands.
Did you complete any training? If not, how did you learn your trade/skills?
No training. Talent allowed me to learn as I did what I knew instinctively.
What’s the hardest part of being a woman in your field?
Having to prove myself among men whose jobs are at stake. They want to share very little and sabotage seems the norm. Men have gotten very comfortable getting paid to do very little and want to keep their job easy. I up the ante upon arrival. Looking sharp and on time is just the beginning. I have a talent for being dexterously detail-oriented which doesn’t go over well with anyone except my boss. I get to work hard and am paid less... still looking for that equality.
How do you encourage other women to start doing what you do?
I teach with OTI, but I’m happy to offer my time personally. I have been holding workshops at my studio on the weekends for creative folks that are interested in developing their concept and tooling. I’d say that every day I’m setting an example by just being me.
Who’s a role model who helped you in your journey to where you are?
- Joan of Ark
- My Great Aunt Billie
- Katharine Hepburn: “If you obey all the rules, you miss all the fun!”
- All women who follow their own unique path
If you could give your 20-year-old-self advice, what would it be?
Save for that land now!
What are the top five things you carry in your pockets?
Stones, writing utensil and notebook, pocket knife, keys, fire. But I’ll also fit chisel after chisel, hammer, leatherman, files, sandpaper, fasteners, tape measure, magnifiers, dust brush, food - like beef jerky...
Eli carving a special piece for Dovetail
What are you doing when you’re not working hard?
I’m usually working, but then I’m probably reading up on something I want to try or hanging out with my much-neglected lovely people that wish I’d figure out how to balance my time better.
Do you have any special projects or cool things you want people to check out?
Let me see, YES! I make beautiful sculptures and love working with people that already have a vision but just need someone to complete their ideas. My workshops are a great place to discover what’s been waiting to bloom for many people.
A Dovetail set in stone.
WATCH: Our Interview with Eli