For this week’s LitMag interview, we interviewed Zai Divecha, designer, metalworker and owner of Elektra Steel (and an ‘06 LW alum!). As Elektra Steel’s website states, the company produces unique mosaic wall hangings. Zai specializes in the very precise, flexible type of welding called TIG welding, which allows her to create her bold, detailed work. Check out Zai’s work at www.elektrasteel.com or follow her company on Instagram at @elektrasteel.
How did you first get involved with metalworking? What advice would you give to people looking to take a similar career path?
I first got into metalworking at age 14, as a high school student right here at Lick-Wilmerding! I knew I liked art when I first got to Lick, but I knew nothing about metalworking, and to be honest, I was a little scared of the shops. Once I learned the basics in the metal shop and started to feel a little more comfortable with the tools, I fell in love. I realized I could create furniture and home goods from scratch. It was deeply empowering.
It took me a while to figure out that I wanted to do metalworking as a career, though — I studied other subjects in college and grad school (psychology, public health) and worked in a few different fields (nonprofit, tech) before diving into the art world full-time. It’s okay to change your mind a few times.
If you think you might want to pursue art for a career, the most important thing you can do right now is to start building up your portfolio. Make as much art as you can, and take photos of both the process and the finished pieces. Research “product photography” online — there’s a lot of great information out there about how to take high-quality photos of your pieces. Once you have a few pieces photographed, create a simple website and an Instagram account to show off your work. Whether you’re applying to art programs or just showing your work to a family member, it’s incredibly helpful to have photos of your work gathered nicely in one (or two) places.
If you know you want to pursue art as a career, you could go to an art school for college, or attend a liberal arts school that has a strong visual arts program. But you don’t have to go to school for art — I didn’t! If you’re not sure you want to commit to going to art school, explore art in your free time instead: You could take summer or evening classes at a place like The Crucible in Oakland, or TechShop in San Francisco.