Welding ignites alum’s passion for art

Graduate receives James Sellars Apprenticeship Award

3/7/2023 10:54:58 AM

ST. JOHN’S, NL — Welding, homesteading, and creating art – it’s all in a day’s work for Sheila Coultas.

The College of the North Atlantic (CNA) graduate completed the Welder program at Prince Philip Drive campus in 2014, and her fire for the trade still burns as bright today.

“I am currently working at The Newfoundland Bronze Foundry,” said Coultas. “We make bronze sculptures and statues. I am currently working on my own commission, in fact.”
Sheila Coultas graduated from the Welder program at CNA’s Prince Philip Drive Campus in 2014. Since then, she has been working as a full-time welder at the Newfoundland Bronze Foundry. The journeyperson also received the James Sellars Apprenticeship Award from the Fry Family Foundation.

Originally from the Southern Shore, Coultas explains how being a mature student in her class made her time at CNA ‘interesting’.

“I was the oldest person in all my classes, generally speaking, but was able to make a connection with many of my classmates, though I tended to have more in common with the instructors, in terms of real-world experience,” she recalled. “Many of my classmates were just out of high school!”
While at CNA she was awarded the James Sellars Apprenticeship Award from the Fry Family Foundation. The award is given annually to three Welder students and three Construction/Industrial Electrician students in the memory of James Sellars, the father of Marlene (Sellars) Fry, who was the first plumber in Newfoundland to receive his Master Plumber Certificate. The program has since undergone changes; however, winners up to 2021 will still be eligible for their $5,000 award upon completion of their journeyperson status.

“I was very excited. I actually startled my partner at the time when I got the email telling me I had won,” laughed Coultas. “It was a most emphatic exclamation!”
Sheila Coultas has been a full-time welder since graduating from College of the North Atlantic in 2014. She was also a recipient of the James Sellars Apprenticeship Award from the Fry Family Foundation, an award given annually to three Welder students and three Construction/Industrial Electrician students before the program underwent changes in 2021.

Currently residing on the Avalon Peninsula, she says she first became interested in welding while completing the Orientation to Trades and Technologies (OTT) course through the Women in Resource Development Corporation (WRDC).

“I would suggest that OTT is a great way of getting into and choosing a trade that is suitable, and personally advantageous,” said the journeyperson. “If OTT isn’t available, do some research and use your intuition. If you are choosing a trade based solely on what money you could make, you could very well be miserable, and likely won’t follow through.”

Coultas says having a passion for what you are doing is the key to staying with it.

“I am of the opinion that one ought to have an interest in any particular trade in the first place to really stick with it in the long term.”

When it comes to being a female in a male-dominated field, Coultas offers some advice.
Sheila Coultas is hard at work at the Newfoundland Bronze Foundry, where she has been working as a full-time welder. The journeyperson is also an artist and a homesteader.

“Much has changed in the skilled trades-oriented workplace, but some of the same attitudes remain, especially in camps,” she said. “Be careful. Try to establish boundaries and an air of self-respect early on. Those who would be disrespectful or predatory in nature tend to look for weaknesses.”

Over the years she has been able to meld her talent for welding with her love of art.

“I am an artist, by nature, and was able to choose a trade that could also adapt to an artist's sensibilities,” she said. “I have always been interested in art, though, like anything, it took me some time to develop some skills.”

She works with a myriad of mediums for her artwork.

“I call myself a multidisciplinary artist because I work in textiles and fibre art. I am a painter, and now I am also working with metals and in the realm of sculpture. I have frequently mixed all three mediums. My favourite medium seems to change with the seasons, and I like them each best at different times.”

When Coultas isn’t working or creating art, she is busy with things on the home front.

“Generally speaking I can be rather busy, as I am also a homesteader – my partner and I raise chickens, ducks and goats. Though my fella is mostly responsible for that end of things.”

For more information about the James Sellars Apprenticeship Award, Welder or other CNA programs, visit www.cna.nl.ca.

Media contact:

Ryanne McIsaac
Content Specialist
College of the North Atlantic