The Story of Shelley Smith and the Full Metal Dress

Most wouldn’t typically associate oil barrels with beauty– but Shelley Smith isn’t most people. 

It began when Shelley Smith’s mother bought her an acetylene torch in 2004. For two years, it remained in its original packaging, stowed away while Smith ran two busy restaurants in Savannah. Finally, the tension and stress of a fast-paced life began to weigh heavily on her. 

“To be honest, I was just having a meltdown,” Smith says. “I just had to get the hell out of town.”

And get out of town she did. She visited her father in the Mississippi Delta on the Gulf Coast, acetylene torch packed with her. That’s when she discovered an unlikely inspiration.

“He had a couple of oil barrels around and I just cut them up and started making things,” she says. 

Two weeks of welding later, Smith knew what she had to do. She returned to Savannah, sold her restaurants, and moved to the Gulf Coast to begin following her artistic ambitions. 

After six years of restorative time in Mississippi, Smith decided it was time to move back to Savannah. Her newest endeavor is new and unexpected:
dress-making.

"That decision probably saved my life,” she admits."

To read more about this female welder and more, subscribe now or pick up the February/March issue of South Magazine.