Sparks Fly: Cape Artisan Rachel Paolino
She primarily uses a MIG welder (MIG stands for metal inert gas, and this form of welding involves electricity), but she says she also practices acetylene welding (which uses this fuel gas along with oxygen). To make individual pieces for her sculptures, she cuts sheet metal by hand with a plasma cutter. “Some people use a CNC (Computer Numeric Control) machine, and the machine will cut out the pieces, but since I cut it out by hand, every single piece is unique,” she says.
One element of her work that Paolino says she especially prides herself on is her use of texture. “I honestly don’t know how she manipulates the metal, but every piece that I’ve seen of hers, they all have this different texture,” says Sophia Dress, a woodworker and the owner of Faces Gallery in Dennis Port, which represents Paolino’s sculpture work. “Like her pieces that are sea creatures, the texture that she gives each piece always feels appropriate to the animal that she is creating. I have a piece right now called Cephalopoda, it’s an octopus, and that piece has this ripple texture to it that almost looks like water.”
In working with clients, Paolino is a true collaborator, says Kristin Pompeo of Kristin Pompeo Interiors, who was the first designer Paolino ever worked with. “She doesn’t stop until she gets the final product the way you want it to be,” Pompeo says. “And whatever you come to her with she can transform it into something a little bit different. Like, you show her a picture, and she’ll say, ‘We can do this, or we could also put a twist on it and do that.’”
Paolino admits many people are shocked when they discover that she—a slender 5’3”, 35-year-old woman—is a welder. “It’s starting to be more accepted—more females are getting into this trade—but it’s still basically a man’s world,” she says. And while she’s proud to be a woman in welding, it’s always been about more than that. “People are so surprised by the welding part that that’s what they really take from me. But I am an artist.”
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