After witnessing a masonry competition, Ashton White became a mason during her sophomore year of high school. She is currently pursuing a degree in Construction Management, while working as a mason outside of school. Ashton’s favorite part of the job is seeing a completed product and saying “I built that.” Check out our interview below to read Ashton’s full story and advice for anyone interested in masonry!
- How did you become a mason by trade? Why masonry?
My sophomore year of high school, I watched a masonry competition. I thought it was so neat and said to myself, “That could be you”. I enrolled in the class my first semester of junior year. I started laying bricks and really fell in love with it. I decided I wanted to compete and told my instructor. My first 2 years were good, but I really struggled when it came time for competitions. It wasn’t until I graduated that everything clicked and I decided I wanted to continue competing in college. I practiced almost every day and competed at the local, state and national competitions. I’m now the first female to win the SkillsUSA National post secondary masonry competition 2 consecutive years.
Competing really sparked my interest and helped me decide that I wanted to start a career in masonry. I was also enticed by the fact that it was a male dominant industry. I wanted to show that I could do it too, even if I wasn’t considered the “typical person” that would do that. I love that I get to build things from start to finish and see what I’ve done. It’s a lot of hard work, but i’m always up for a challenge. It’s pleasing to know that I did something myself and I can say, “I built that”. Masonry is so creative and unique in so many different ways. You can make things your own by using different materials, colors and designs. It’s so satisfying to see something built differently than you’ve seen before.
- What type of education/licensing do you need to be a mason?
You really don’t need any education or licensing to be a mason. Most companies will start you out as a laborer if you don’t have any background knowledge of bricklaying. You can go up from there to learn how to lay brick. Many companies have apprenticeship programs where you “earn while you learn”. Which is exactly how it sounds; you learn how to do the job while still making money. There are also trade schools or, like I did, local highschools with programs that will teach you how to lay brick. It just depends on what path you take and what you want to do. Most brick masons don’t have a degree or license of any kind.
- What does a typical day look like for you?
My typical day looks different from others since I go to school full time for Construction Management. I’m usually busy doing school work or projects. When I’m getting ready for competitions I go to my old highschool, find a plan for a project I want to build, get the materials together and start building it. It usually takes me 3-6 hours to build a project depending on the size of it. Once I’m finished, I check how level it is, plumb, range, measurements and neatness of the project. I use a blend of sand, lime and water to mimic real mortar just so I can tear it down and reuse the materials to build another project. When I go to competitions they already have everything set up and ready for you to build your project. They give you a plan and a time limit and you just go from there. They’ll grade your project on how level it is, plumb, range, if you have the right measurements, full joints, neatness and quality. Every 1/8th of an inch off is a point deducted so it’s very precise.
- What’s your favorite part about your job?
My favorite part about competing is meeting new people and sharing my story with younger generations. It is always nice to make new friends that have similar interests as I do. I enjoy being able to do things on my own and navigating how I want to build something. I also feel accomplished when I see the final product.
- What’s a challenge to your job/work?
Bricklaying in general is very challenging. You have to start right to finish right. Things are very precise and different designs can get pretty challenging. Competing in masonry is also very challenging considering you want to get the least amount of points deducted as possible. You have a time limit to build a plan just like it is, so it can get stressful. Guys in the industry can be rude and tell you that you don’t belong or that you should stick to housework just because you’re a lady in the industry. I just roll my eyes and go on my way.
- What advice do you have for someone looking into Masonry?
My advice for anyone looking into masonry is go for it. Try it out because you just might enjoy it as much as I do. When you first start to learn it will be challenging, so don’t feel like it’s not right for you. I’ve made many mistakes and gone through many challenging times, but it was all worth it because it helped me get to where I am today and I learned how to do things better the next time around. If you’re a female looking into masonry, don’t get discouraged when you get weird looks or people ask you “Why would you want to do that?” or say, “That’s a job for a man”. Take it with a grain of salt because if it’s something you enjoy and want to do, other people’s opinions don’t matter. Also, there are so many ladies in the trades that would be happy to support you, me being one of them!
You can find Ashton on Instagram at @thatmasonrygirl