Arts, Crafts Center employee touches thousands with creations

Eletisia Gates, Arts and Crafts Center laser engraver and picture framer, discusses engraving options for a pen with a customer Jan. 17, 2012, at Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho. Gates landed this job by chance when she brought a photo she had taken into the Arts and Crafts Center to get it framed. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jonathan Glanville)

Eletisia Gates, Arts and Crafts Center laser engraver and picture framer, discusses engraving options for a pen with a customer Jan. 17, 2012, at Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho. Gates landed this job by chance when she brought a photo she had taken into the Arts and Crafts Center to get it framed. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jonathan Glanville)

Eletisia Gates, Arts and Crafts Center laser engraver and picture framer, reaches for a plaque to engrave for the 366th Annual Award winners Jan. 17, 2012, at Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho.  Gates has been framing and creating awards and ornaments at the Arts and Crafts Center for more than five years. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jonathan Glanville)

Eletisia Gates, Arts and Crafts Center laser engraver and picture framer, reaches for a plaque to engrave for the 366th Annual Award winners Jan. 17, 2012, at Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho. Gates has been framing and creating awards and ornaments at the Arts and Crafts Center for more than five years. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jonathan Glanville)

MOUNTAIN HOME AIR FORCE BASE, Idaho -- One Gunfighter here turned her love for art into a very successful career that touches thousands of individuals a year.

Eletisia Gates has been a laser engraver and picture framer at the base Arts and Crafts Center for more than five years, a job she landed by chance.

"I wasn't really looking for a job," Gates said. "I've always been very artistic, and at the time I was playing around with photography. I walked in to get one of my pictures framed, and the person who took my order asked me if I wanted a job. I think they primarily saw my artistic ability and they thought I would do well working here."

Gates said she was influenced artistically as a child by her mother who would quilt and her grandmother who crocheted and knitted. Years later, as a young Air Force spouse and mother, she put the skills she had acquired to use.

"I wanted to dress my young girls up in the cute little outfits you want your daughters to wear, but we couldn't afford them on my husband's airman's salary," Gates explained. "I wasn't working at the time, so I made all of their dresses. I've always had a knack for being able to make something out of nothing."

Her first big project was a quilt she made for her husband while they were geographically separated.

"The very first quilt I made was when my husband was on a remote to Korea," she said. "He was going to be coming home on his mid-tour to visit, and I was going crazy trying to get a quilt finished for him. It was my first quilt - I had never made one - and I decided to tackle the queen size! I made it for him to take back with him. My way of thinking was, 'I won't be able to be there to hold you, but you'll have something there to wrap around you that I made.'"

Gates has continued to create gifts for thousands of Airmen across the Air Force through her job at the Arts and Crafts center by way of plaques, ornaments and framing.

"There's a big outreach, and it's a great feeling," she said. "I think it feels best for me when I can take someone's idea and use my creativity to enhance it - it's a great feeling when they say, 'Oh my gosh, it looks great!' That's when it feels the best. The warm smiles and the patience, they're irreplaceable."

While she credits her artistic side to some of her success, there is one key element Gates said she cannot do without.

"Everything I do in here is mainly possible because my coworkers help me in a huge way," she said. "After I'm finished engraving a product, they're mounting, setting coins and finishing what I started. It's all of us working together to make sure this place runs smoothly."

Gates said if she weren't an employee at the Arts and Crafts Center, she would become a stay at home mom and work on school. But for now, she is very happy and content where she is.

"I feel needed here, and it's good to be needed," she said. "It's what makes me give my all into my work."