We sat down with one of our friends and SÜK müse, Becca aka @thechipperchippy. Her tenacity, infectious smile and striking personality make her a true chipper chippy.
For those of us who don’t know who you are – tell us about what you do.
I’m Becca (she/her) and at 30 I finally decided what I want to be when I grow up….. a carpenter!
I started my carpentry apprenticeship the year I turned 30. I spent over 10 years working in admin roles in every type of office - from dingy Harry Potter style cupboards under the stairs. To the top of a Collins Street skyscraper, with gorgeous floor to ceiling glazing. And yet they both sucked for exactly the same reason… you can’t open a single bloody window to feel a wisp of fresh air on your face!
It was time for me to get out and now every day I get to gulp in that fresh air.
How did you become a chippy? What drove you to start?
Ironically it was thanks to my last office job! They had this amazing charity program we were supporting called ‘This World Exists’. They build schools and education centres wherever they're needed. I ran a talent show and - somehow - my Sister Act lip sync to ‘The Greatest Melody Ever Told’ although bloody brilliant, did not take the title. The shade!! Anyway, the point is that we raised heaps of money and I was picked with 5 other employees to go to Nepal and help rebuild a school that had been destroyed in the 2015 earthquakes they suffered.
It was an incredible experience, literally life changing for me. We helped out doing the little we could on site. Mostly just labour stuff but it was amazing. I loved making the kids smile and getting my hands dirty to build something, especially something that could potentially change their lives for the better too.
Working on that site was the first time I started to believe I could actually enjoy a job and so straight away I started looking into trade apprenticeships.
How did you start learning some of these skills? Was it intimidating/exciting? What was the work environment like?
My girlfriend Alex was doing some research and actually found my trade school, Trades Institute Victoria. They offer an 18 month apprenticeship which is pretty unheard of in the industry. I was in trade school 3 days a week for 12 months doing all the theory and practical units required for a Cert 3 in Carpentry. They taught us everything from basic hand tools stuff, building sawhorses and hanging doors to building full size subfloors, wall frames and roofs.
The only reason I wasn’t scared is because of Alex, she supported us both whilst I was part time. Every time I panicked ‘what if I don’t like it’ she was like ‘then you try something else you think you’ll like until we find your thing’. Luckily for us I love it and I still get nervous/excited every time we start a project at home.
What has been hard about working in carpentry?
I love my team, I’m still with the same guys I have been with since the start of my carpentry career. We’re a small team of 4 on the tools, building prefabricated eco-homes. It’s great because right from the start I was involved in every part of our builds but that also meant a super steep learning curve! I spent the first year feeling stupid at some point in every day. It was really hard to be kind to myself and not sweat the mistakes that anyone learning something new makes. But when I look back on everything I have learnt in the last 2 years it's super cool and I’m really proud of myself.
Oh and the other really hard thing about carpentry…. When we do have to work out on site the portaloo sitch is as bad as you’d imagine.
What advice would you give to those thinking about starting a trade?
I love construction and trade because there are so many options within the industry. I wanted to start with carpentry because you’re involved in every stage of a build and when I’m done carrying heavy things and climbing up ladders all day, I can project manage or run a business or even teach. There are so many roles in the industry, there is literally something for everyone. So, if you have an interest in a trade, go for it, you’ll learn a lot and find a path that suits you within the industry regardless of where you start.
What has been one of your favourite/most rewarding projects that you’ve worked/working on?
Alex and I are renovating our home in Ballarat, an 1880s miner’s cottage. Everything about this place is a passion project. Earlier this year we replaced the 1960’s décor style front entry way that was someone else’s passion project decades ago. We restored it back to traditional miner cottage frontage. Closing that front door for the first time felt really good, especially since it was 11pm and at one point that afternoon I was worried we were going to have to spend the night without a front door. Yikes!
For a full a blow by blow, check out my IG!
What do you want to see more of in the spaces you work?
Diversity of course, we all know the stereotype of a tradie and I am definitely not it and probably most of you reading this now aren’t either. I think the industry, especially the ‘on the tools’ sector could really do with learning from the perspectives of people outside the current norm. I hope I have brought a new perspective to my team that helps them understand someone not like themselves and connect with the parts of themselves they may have neglected before now.
I'm a mixed race, queer woman in a male dominated industry. Just by turning up every day I'm challenging the stereotype.
How does your upbringing and where you grew up inspire your work and thoughts?
When I told my family about wanting to look into a trade they were like ‘it’s about time!' They know me well and were just waiting for me to figure it out myself, I guess. My family brought me up believing 'Becca is the best' (this kind of became my slogan!) and that I can do anything. Although it's not always easy, I have confidence in myself to do what I need to do, to be who I want to be.
What did you want to be ‘when you grew up’?
I actually wanted to be a helicopter pilot and was well on my way. At 21 I was flying every weekend building up my hours and even doing solo flights. However I had started having bad allergic reactions to nuts and I was eventually diagnosed with an anaphylactic allergy. That meant I had issues with the medical for a commercial pilots license. You need that to be paid to fly, so that pretty much ended that dream. Instead I decided to travel with my cousin and my best friend, and after 10 months and 12 Countries in South East Asia I landed Down Under. I was supposed to stay for 6 months… that was 8 years ago (my mum blames Alex for that and she's not wrong).
What would be your DJ name?
DJ CC aka The Chipper Chippy
Becca works on the unceded land of the Wadawurrung and the Dja Dja Wurrung Peoples of the Kulin Nation. These photos and video were shot on the unceded land of the Boonwurrung Peoples of the Kulin Nation.