I started going by AJ when I worked in a professional theater costume shop for the first time. There was another stitcher with the same first name and we just came up with AJ for me and it has been my “credit” name for theater, television, and now as an artist.

I thought that I wanted to work in television production so that’s what I studied in high school and college. The TV production department didn’t have any classes on working with lights, costumes, or make-up but the university had an excellent technical theater department so I drifted over to take a few classes.

A few semesters before I planned to graduate, I started having severe writer’s block and failing classes because I couldn’t turn in papers. I dropped out, determined to never go back to school.

I worked at a couple of theaters (costume department) for a couple of seasons, worked for the local public broadcasting station for a few years, and then at a local news station for a few more years. Realizing that I was not doing the work I wanted to do, I went back to school.

I earned an Associate of Arts in Applied Art and Design (computer art) with an emphasis in Multimedia and after graduating, I was able to teach a few semesters of Non-linear Video Editing, thanks to my experience at the television stations.

Teaching was amazing.

But when a full-time instructor was hired and wanted to teach the editing class, that door closed.

I was working part-time at a community college and took some more art-related classes. One of my fellow students told me that I had to take the art metals class in the welding department. I scoffed, “I have no interest in metal!” But I was assured that I would love how the teacher taught the class so, a few semesters later, I took the class.

I loved how the teacher taught the class. I also discovered, much to my surprise, that I had found my artistic voice in metal.

It was in that class that I met my first Computer Numerically-Controlled (CNC) plasma table. It was a metal table that had a plasma torch perched on a gantry that was controlled by a computer program that moved the torch over the table and cut the metal by following computer code.

This was the perfect intersection between computer art and metal art!

One day, I thought, why can’t I cut out metal following dress patterns and sew the metal pieces together? The CNC cutting method was ideal for this type of work. But I had earned my Associate of Arts degree in welding and no longer had the opportunity to try out my idea using the school’s plasma table.

My husband found a used CNC plasma table on an auction site. We made our bid and won!

And now I get to figure out how to cut dress patterns out of metal and put them together using fabric-working techniques.