WAYNESVILLE – The work is strenuous, the work is hot, the work is messy. The worker is Grace Cathey, a metal sculptor in Waynesville.
She takes steel and turns it into pieces of art.
"The energy when the flower is just this steel and it's laying on the floor, steel pieces, and then I start welding and pulling a petal together, and then you, you feel that life force in there," said Cathey.
Many of those pieces are oversized and seemingly complex, but grace breaks them down to the point that the work is manageable.
"It's just like anything that's a hard hill to climb, just do a little bit at a time," Cathey said.
Before she began working with steel and all the tools of the welding trade, Grace was a weaver.
She sees similarities.
"It's the same mechanical aspect as weaving and sewing and putting together. My tools are a little different, but my mechanical aspect is the same," said Cathey.
Grace typically spends four days a week in the studio. She devotes much of the rest of her time to being in the gallery where people buy her work.
"I think that's so important for an artist, to get a balance between working with people and working alone," said Cathey.
The gallery is in an unlikely place. It’s a former gas station where her husband still uses part of the space to do auto repairs.
For more than a decade, Grace’s sculptures have been inside, outside, and even in a sculpture garden out back.
"I work out of a quirky gallery situation and my relationship with metal is very refined. I take it to a very feminine level," said Cathey.
This is the way Grace Cathey has chosen to make a living and it has worked out well for her. It satisfies her creative side even though the prices she charges might not fully compensate her for her time.
"If i sit there and figured out how many, how much time in each piece, it just about makes you cry," Cathey said.
Grace’s father and his father before him were steelworkers in a more traditional sense. This is different, but she said she figures they would approve of her being in the “family business”.
"I think at this point, now, that they would really be proud and really enjoy seeing what I made," Cathey said.