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Woman at Work: Rae Ripple, Metal Artist

Tell us about your work.
I’m a metal artist in Big Spring, TX. I do everything from painting onto metal to fabricating massive sculptures.

What’s the first thing you ever made from metal? 
Somebody brought me a piece of sheet metal and was like, "Yo, can you paint my ranch logo on this piece of sheet metal?" So I did. I then moved from painting on sheet metal to cutting it up. I made a full-scale metal dress out of pieces I cut, joining it together with rivets and balling wire. It took me months.  

Rae Ripple welding inside a truck

You came into welding sideways. What lit that fire in you?
Every single MF that said I couldn’t do it. That I’d never be good enough. Or strong enough. That I’d never make it. The day I quit my waitressing job to drive a tow truck, my boss laughed at me and said “Ha, you’ll be back.” Then I became the best f**ing wrecker driver in West Texas. The day I left the tow business and became a firefighter, everyone said “You’ll never make it.”

Rae Ripple welding black and white image

And I made it! The day I left the fire department, everyone told me “You’re dumb, they don’t call artists starving for nothing,” and now I’m selling my art all over the world. I started my work life as a stripper at 18, because my daughter and I were homeless. I was the child of crackheads. I did what I needed to do to get us off the streets. Ever since, I’ve done what I do because my kids deserve better. Now, the welder stuff came by God’s design. That was all his plan. Art was an outlet for my past and trying to work out all the shit I have been through. Art gave me a place to heal. And taught me how to let go. 

What’s your life like now? 
My kids and family are amazing as always! My daughter is 16 and about to leave for college. Yes, college! Yes, at 16! She graduated 2 years early 'cause she’s a little smarty pants. She’s my mini—but completely opposite of—me! She’s into fashion and "girl" stuff and I’m basically a dude. And my son, he’s 12. He’s into everything I’m into. He’s a little savage on a dirt bike. He loves welding too. Career: I’ve got massive things coming up! You might be seeing me on one of the biggest streaming platforms in the world. 😉

Rae leaning against a metal M

How did you learn your craft?
YouTube! And a lot of trial and error. I watched a lot of welding videos. And I made sculptures out of the scraps at a friend’s auto body garage, and sold them on Facebook ‘til I saved enough money to buy my own machines.  

Do you make a living from your art?
Yep! Finally. 🙏🏼

What are some of your favorite recent pieces?
“Into the Sun"—a freestanding, interactive, wheelchair-accessible hot-air balloon metal sculpture for the Tall City Library in Midland Texas. All the pipes, gauges, and chains are repurposed from oil fields. 

Into the Sun sculpture Rae Ripple Dovetail Workwear Woman at Work

 “Metal AF"— a guitar made of scrap metal.  

Metal AF guitar made from scrap metal

"Rose Apache"— a 50’s model Apache detailed using freehand plasma cutting, with a Hypertherm Powermax45. I call it turning metal into lace and it’s one of my favorite things to do. I traded a ticket to Mexico for Rose Apache. Instead of going on vacation I decided to cut a truck up! It’s mine, but it’s also up for sale :) 

Rose Apache truck Rae Ripple Woman at Work

Are you metal or fire?
I’m both. ❤️

You’re a tough-talking Texan. True?
More like Feral Texas Woman.  

Rae Ripple working with a man in garage

Do you have a philosophy that gets you through life?
If we are lucky, we may get about 80 years on this planet. And being on a rock floating around a ball of fire in the middle of the universe... I ask myself, “Is it worth it?” Our time is valuable. We must make every single second count. That includes what we dwell on. I can either let my mistakes or my past own me, or I can use it to make me better. I choose life. I choose happy. I choose me.  

What would people never guess by looking at you?
I collect ballroom gowns. Of course, I never have anywhere to wear them so most of the time I’ll just wear them while I’m cleaning house or just watching TV. Ha ha! Makes me feel like a princess or like a girl. I own like 20 of them. 🤣

What do you want people to take away from your art?
Everything I create has a story. It’s a piece of me. It’s something I want to leave behind for people to walk up to, feel it... and say, “Man, I would have loved her.” 


What do you suck at?
I couldn’t golf if my life depended on it. But I can smash the hell out of some balls at Topgolf like Happy Gilmore. I have no idea where those balls are going but I can smash them! 

Rae burns up Instagram hereRae's pronouns are she + her.