About Us

Our Founder


Karen Smith is a self-taught metalsmith. A longtime Oakland resident, she was inspired to start WWTH after a short apprenticeship in Dakar, Senegal in 2018. Her mission is to bring this vocation to women and girls of African descent around the globe beginning in Oakland, and, in 2020, in Senegal.  These trainings are a way to empower and to dismantle, girl by girl, systemic/generational poverty. By offering training and support for underserved communities of women, she knows this to be true: access + opportunity + creativity changes  women's lives.



Our application process starts here.  It's a simple process; we have an online application and a brief (virtual) interview. Applications open on October 15th and close on December 1st.

Winter  session begins January 17, 2020.

Our Lead Teacher


Ale'ah Bashir Baaqee is a metal artist and Oakland native.  She began her career in industrial arts as a welder at age 12. With visions of more detailed work, she began  classes in metal jewelry. A decade later in a full-circle moment, she now teaches courses at The Crucible, where she began.  She is as committed to continuing her metal education as she is to teaching as many young women about industrial arts as possible.


We Wield the Hammer: A BRIEF HISTORY

We are pleased to announce our project, We Wield the Hammer (WWTH) launched in Summer, 2019!

WWTH exists to identify, train, track and support young women of African descent who might not otherwise choose a career as a metalsmith. The project, incubating in 2019, will become an official urban apprenticeship program in 2020. 

The program has begun in Oakland, CA  and is housed at the Crucible, an industrial arts organization located in West Oakland.  WWTH  will also extend to Dakar, Senegal beginning in 2020.

The incubation period began in July, 2019 and is an “introduction“ to the basics of working with metals.  Students work with copper, brass, nickel and sterling silver.  The 1st stage of the program consisted of a 5-week intensive “Welcome to Metals”.  Going forward, the courses will consist of 8-week cohorts. During the course of this introductory program, students learn about working with metals through demonstrations and hands on practice. The course will cover 4-6 projects (and enterprising students may make up to 8 items during class time and in optional open studios offered weekly and proctored by the teacher).

During this course, the main purposes are to: 

  •  introduce the vocation to young women and girls
  • identify – through projects, attention, attendance, etc. – which students are interested in pursuing an apprenticeship with WWTH. Several criteria will be considered including desirability, competency, likelihood to proceed among others.
  • encourage and support young women of African descent who have heretofore been unable or unaware of this vocation and make a way for their growth as makers, artists and small business owners, thereby empowering them financially and personally.

There were five weeks in the inaugural session after which the students had an exhibition of their work and hands on demonstrations for family and friends. Students will learn the basics of creating with metal, basic design and completion of projects.  Classes will meet weekly for 8 weeks. 

To sign up for the program, apply at the top of this page.  For additional info, contact us at info@wewieldthehammer.org


This project would not be possible with the support of The Crucible and the City of Oakland Cultural Funding Project.