Hanna forges her dreams
There are few jobs cooler than line welding the hull of a submarine. Ask Hanna Eriksson Gutke, who moved to Karlskrona to build submarines at the shipyard while learning the trade from Saab's expert welders.
The morning has been a bit of a challenge. For the past couple of months, Hanna has moved above sea level to work on surface vessels. Two corvettes are in the shipyard for maintenance and upgrade. Working in narrow spaces under the deck can be a struggle for anyone. Imagine wriggling into that cramped space and somehow finding room behind piping to weld materials together. The mission was accomplished, but not without some really frustrating moments.
“I was actually quite proud of myself afterwards,” says Hanna. “This type of problem-solving is what I love about my job. The shipyard workshop is also a place where I can truly be myself. We are a great team and I have felt included since day one.”
Welding never topped Hanna Eriksson Gutke’s ‘what-I-want-to-do-when-I-grow-up’ list. At university she studied behavioural science, and for a few years she worked in a programme to help teenagers who had ended up on the wrong side of the law.
“I was actually quite good, and I want to believe that I did a good job,” she says. “But something was missing in my life, until I signed up for an evening class with a blacksmith. I worked in her traditional forge for a few hours a week and I immediately knew - this was it! The heat, the fire, the possibilities.”
Hanna was hooked. And she had talent. The blacksmith took her on as her apprentice and Hanna became a full-time artist.
“I made ironworks, mainly of molluscs. I took a special liking to octopus tentacles. Suckers became my speciality and the skill I developed actually gave me interesting and fun commission work. I was able to sell my artwork to customers all over the world, although it was on a small scale,” she says.
Metalworking runs in her family. Since the blacksmith Balthazar Gutke immigrated to Sweden in the 18th century and married a local girl, there have been quite a few blacksmiths among Hanna’s ancestors, so her career change may not be so surprising. The idea of becoming a welder arose from a dream of working in the Australian gold mines and from the common dilemma for many artists – the lack of regular income.
“I could imagine myself welding a broken-down excavator under the Australian sun, but to get there I needed education, so I signed up for a welding course. My dad lives on an island in the archipelago outside Karlskrona, and he suggested Saab as a good place to do my work internship.
Hanna applied, was accepted and liked what she did. After her exams she applied for a full-time job at the shipyard.
“Not everyone gets to build submarines at work. It’s awesome. I feel very privileged to work with Saab' incomparable welders and sheet-metal workers, who have taught me so much. The shipyard in itself is also quite spectacular, with its mix of old listed buildings and top modern facilities,” she says.
But what about the Australian gold mines?
“The dream is still alive. Maybe one day I can take a leave of absence to try that as well.”
Name: Hanna Eriksson Gutke
Works as: Welder at Saab's business area Kockums, Karlskrona
At Saab: Since April 2019
Hobbies: Blacksmith and ironworks artist
Likes listening to: Electronic industrial music, especially the German band Einstürzende Neubauten
Reading: Terry Pratchett is a favourite
Hidden talents: I am great at knots and tying things together
I am happiest when: I am working in the forge listening to music at high volume