It’s amazing to learn about history like this and incorporate it into maintaining the building's heritage while restoring it.”
My name is Celeste Lamondin. I am 24 and a level 2 brick and stone mason apprentice. I started working right out of high school and, after a couple years of jumping from job to job, I was tired of being cooped inside all day. I really wanted to enjoy the springs/summers outdoors so I took a job as a hardscape labourer. I knew nothing of the trades world, but like any job, I didn’t have to commit if I didn’t like it. However, I liked it so much that I wanted to see if there was any way of making a rewarding career out of it.
What route did you take to becoming a StoneMason Apprentice?
I took an apprenticeship for brick and stone masonry the following year, starting off in a residential new build. The goal was to teach me the fundamentals of bricklaying and how to do it fast. I next went into commercial restoration, replacing old, deteriorating bricks on schools and apartment buildings. I am now doing heritage restoration, which is by far my favourite - we are restoring buildings that are over 100 years old! The goal for heritage conservation is to keep as much history as we can, while still repairing it.
Who is a Tradesperson?
Learn More on our roles page.
What does a typical day at work look like for you?
An average day for me would be a little bit of everything. First, I would demolish sections of damaged brick. In doing this, I would take care not to ruin any of the surrounding bricks, as well as provide support for sections of wall above, salvaging any that are reusable for the current job or future projects. I’d then get the area ready for rebuilding.
Unlike a new build, we don't always build level or plumb. We have to match the consistency of the old bricks in the wall, which may seem counterintuitive to some, but hey, it’s been standing for the last 100 years. The last action of the day would be clean up. Restoration is a dirty business with tons of broken bricks, dust and mortar droppings. It’s all got to be kept clean to ensure a safe work environment, but also for the homeowners, who most of the time are still residing in the residence while we are working.
What I like best about my role is learning the history of the bricks. I love learning about the mortar mixing process from 65 years ago, finding out why sometimes you’d find horsehair in the mortar and the types of bricks used today vs then. It’s amazing to learn about history like this and incorporate it into maintaining the building's heritage while restoring it.
How do people react when you tell them your role?
Usually with a big “NO WAY!”. They look at my size, my age, my demeanour and wonder why I would even consider such a dirty, heavy career. I love these responses though, as it helps to challenge the idea of who can work in the trades.
What are some main skills you’ve picked up so far?
There are TONS of skills you pick up in the trade. By far the best skill I have picked up is networking - I had no idea how important it is, even in your everyday life. Interacting, engaging and exchanging info/tips has saved me many times when I did not know how to do something. There was always somebody who knew somebody that could help out.
Do you think there is a stigma or misconception preventing young women from joining the industry?
I totally think there is a stigma around getting into the trades as a women. I honestly had this mentality prior to getting involved. In high school trade skills were barely even showcased, whereas universities/colleges were being pushed. It made trades seem like the last resort if you were not good enough to get into anything else. Furthering the stigma was the fact I never saw women in the trades in positions of power. I had only seen women doing traffic control. All these thoughts made me feel inferior and insecure. Now I realize I am here to help change that.
My advice for any woman thinking about pursuing the trades industry is to just do it. It’s like anything else in your life; if you don’t like it, move on. If it turns out to be something you enjoy, take it and run.
What are your aims within your career path and what do you want to do next in your career?
My goals for the future would be to start my own masonry business with a majority female crew. I would like to be doing a mix of restoration work and new builds. I would also love to collaborate with workwear companies in North American to make functional women’s clothing. I’d also love to reach out to school boards and help create more awareness for the younger generation, especially women about the industry.