Graduating from an arts degree can lead you down so many career paths - from professional artists to teachers, curating to charity work, writing, design, photography and advertising; the list could go on. But what if it you ended up in the art industry without studying an arts degree first? Büşra Wilson, an General Engineering graduate from Durham University, graduated with her MEng only to land herself her first graduate job at Daler Rowney, a global manufacturer of Fine Art materials.
As the Supply Chain Planner for Millroom and Mediums, Büşra communicates with the teams who work in the factory where all the paints and pastels are made. Flitting from her office to the noisy warehouse dotted with vats of vivid paint, slugs of watercolour and conveyor belts of finished tubes, she is focused on producing the best quality products, managing her team and solving problems.
Cass Art caught up with Büşra to ask about the essential side to the industry that few of us know about - and what it was like to break into the art world as an engineer.
How did you end up at Daler Rowney?
I applied for this position at Daler Rowney through a recruitment agency, so embarrassingly I actually didn’t know what company I would end up at until my first interview! I was very excited when I learned that I would be working with such a well established company with an absolutely vast variety of products.
Coming from an engineering background, how have you found working in the art industry?
It has been fascinating. My background in engineering had an emphasis on manufacturing but this was based mostly on the production of mechanical, heavy industrial goods. So I really didn’t expect the level of complexity there is behind manufacture of paint and pastels. There are so many different methods and processes that a tube or pot of paint goes through; and the route of each range of paint is completely different. It makes this a really exciting and dynamic environment to work in.
What is your personal favourite art material that is produced in the factory?
I am a sucker for the sets. My favourite has got to be the Art of Giving promotional sets we make for the Christmas period. The wooden boxes are top of my list to buy this year because they are just a really complete package, but the graduate mega wheel comes in such amazing box that I may have to get it just for that!
Do you have a newfound appreciation for colour after working so closely with paints and pastels?
Definitely – I would never have guessed how much work and how many different components goes into paint. I also never realised how many different shades of white there were!
Can you tell us a little bit about how paint is really made?
We have formulas which are like recipes for each paint colour, and they list the chemicals and pigments that go into the product as well as the quantities needed. These are picked from the stores, weighed and then mixed in a big container. From this point on, the procedure can vary. For paint that requires it, it is then milled on triple steel roll mills and sometimes vacuumed to get air bubbles out.
What are the best parts about your job?
The best part of my job is that every day is different, and every day presents a new challenge. And every time you solve a problem or issue there is a real and almost instant result which is very rewarding. I am also motivated by the people I work with; I work daily with everyone in the factory from the COO to the line operators.
How did university prepare you for working at Daler Rowney?
University prepared me in various ways for working at Daler Rowney, though it is a totally different environment. As an engineer, I am used to working long hours, crunching numbers and solving problems. In Daler Rowney that is all very useful but you are also encouraged to think outside the box, make quick and informed decisions, and collaborate on solutions – so I have had to adapt very quickly to the fast-paced production environment. But I think the key to my personal achievements in Daler Rowney have been down to effective communication and teamwork.
What advice would you give to those studying – either an arts degree or otherwise – wanting to get into the industry on a practical level?
My advice would be to be persistent and open-minded. From my personal experience, I know how disappointing and disheartening it is to receive rejection after rejection. But I was too hard on myself and had almost given up all hope when I received my offer from Daler Rowney. It’s not where I imagined I would be while I was at university – it’s so much better than that, and I regret ever worrying about it so much.
Images 3 & 4: Maurice Ballard