Sisters are doing it at Women’s Shed Queenstown

2 minutes read
Posted 3 November, 2023
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Sisters are doing it for themselves at Women’s Shed Queenstown with “overwhelming” numbers, more than 60 creative carpentry queens nailing it already and less than two months since the group’s launch.

Founder and tutor, former Auckland builder Alex van Dam is already running eight workshops a week with more than 30 women on her waiting list eager to get started.

“I’ve had so many friends ask me to help them build something and I’ve always wanted to teach women how to use power and hand tools.”

The move south in March prompted the launch when van Dam wanted a change from building houses commercially.

The women start out with introductory courses where they’ve been building planter boxes and bird houses, with the option to advance to a six-week carpentry course, building furniture and the likes. “They’re gaining so much confidence,” she says.

Rising living costs are a big incentive, but most of the women, aged from their early 20s to late 50s and working all manner of jobs, say they love being able to make something practical with their hands. Building clients often commented on the detail and level of care displayed by female builders, van Dam says. “There aren’t a lot of women tradies on the tools and I think they do it better.”

While a few husbands have offered to teach their wives, it’s a different dynamic in the positive, all female environment, van Dam says. “There’s no judgement if you make a mistake.”

She had no idea she’d get such a huge response. “It was really overwhelming. It’s been crazy, but I love it.”

They’ve been supported by Southern REAP, and Arrowtown MenzShed members have offered space in their workshop, but they’re fast running out of room. “It’s been amazing getting to know the old boys. They’ve been great.” Until now they’ve been juggling van Dam’s tools, and others kindly sponsored by local and national building suppliers.

Funding permitting, she’s hoping to lease some industrial space for the rapidly growing movement next year.

There’s a strong charitable community focus at Women’s Shed and Alex is planning to apply for grant funding to have the ladies work on a tiny house or cabin project, auctioning that off for charity. A former youth worker, she will donate the proceeds to Mike King’s youth mental health initiatives.

“A lot of the women want to learn how to build within the NZ Building Code and do their own renovations.”

Eventually van Dam, who’s worked extensively with youth, wants to connect with Wakatipu High School to assist in any way she can. In 2018 she took a 15-year-old boy to Thailand to build a house for Habitat for Humanity and she’d love to do a trip with a group of women and youth from here sometime.

Next month (November) Women’s Shed will be building a food pantry for Queenstown Harvest Gardens.

To get in touch see:
Women’s Shed Queenstown on Facebook or @womensshedqueenstown


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