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In our latest Meet the Expert article we sit down with our Training and Application Manager, Gill Harrison, to get her thoughts on the industry and an insight into her experience working with vinyl.
How many years have you worked within the sign and graphics industry?
How did you enter the industry?
I answered a job advert in our local newspaper
What roles have you had over the years and how have they changed?
I started in artwork, it was in the days when a computer was a big box with a black screen and green text.
We had huge die cut machines “Spacematics” churning out 1000’s of pre spaced letters every day. We only had a tiny handful of type styles and an even smaller selection of colours. For anything fancy I had to enlarge Letraset text in the camera room then trace and digitise graphics. It was much more labour intensive than it is today, but a great way to really understand vectors etc. I would spend lots of time drawing (tracing), digitising & weeding.
On my first day at Smiths one of the chaps told me the best way to get out of work I didn’t like was to do it badly. It was only a matter of time after that before someone else was chosen to make the teas. Thankfully we now have great coffee machines.
I did 22 years between artwork and vinyl signage production. In the later years of that I was also travelling all over the UK teaching customers how to get the best out of their ROLLSROLLER machines.
Then for 8 years I swapped my scalpel for car keys and became an Account Manager looking after customers in the North. During that time, I was starting to get very involved with training and trouble shooting. This led to my current role, in 2017 we opened the Training Academy, and I was offered the fantastic opportunity of helping many more people.
What’s involved in your day-to-day role?
Lots of training! Alongside training there are lots of exhibitions to prepare for, not to mention the management and marketing department are constantly wanting different items wrapping onsite for testing and promotional purposes. I must admit I do love it as it helps me to learn new methods and evaluate materials.
Have you had to adjust to new ways of working due to the COVID-19 pandemic?
Haven’t we all? I was fully expecting to be one of the last to return from furlough, but our fantastic Marketing Department had other ideas.
They brought myself and Lol, our Creative Manager, back in with a simple brief “create content for social media”!!!!!……. we were like a pair of rabbits in the headlights, and when I look back at the early stuff I cringe. I don’t think Lol has many ornaments and plants left and my son still hasn’t realised one of his guitar amps is missing. It’s been a great experience and I can safely say I’m no longer too bothered about speaking on camera…..even if it does take 5 takes…..on a good day!!
Why is training important within the signs and graphics industry?
Early on in the days of vehicle wrapping the industry was poisoned because of people not understanding how to do a wrap correctly, that led to numerous customers saying they simply wouldn’t touch wrapping as they had such bad experiences with it, not only our customers but also end users, fleet managers etc.
So, as a company, Smiths were one of the first to introduce regular wrap training courses, and we felt it was important to do the same with the DI-NOC and Cover Styl’. Also, methods are constantly changing, evolving, and improving.
Do you think wrapping as a profession should have more of a presence in the education system with formal qualifications by recognised national occupational standards?
I think the whole of the signage industry should have more of a presence in the education system and it’s something I’ve always said I’d love to be involved with, especially bearing in mind I was only 15 when I started, but there are only so many hours in the day. Thankfully I know the ISA UK are trying to make a positive step in that direction, which is fantastic.
If you can wrap a vehicle can you wrap a kitchen or hotel fitout?
In a word ‘yes’, but too many sign makers and vehicle wrappers forget that DI-NOC and Cover Styl’ are not sign vinyls. They are much thicker which is why they have different rules applied to the process and different limitations.
Hey, I’ve been known to wrap bits of my kitchens in signage stuff, but those materials are designed to live on a flat surface and be looked at not given a hard life by a home owner with children and pets, or in a commercial environment such as a hotel, getting battered with suit cases etc.
Rules are there for a reason, also vehicles wrappers forget that just because you can stretch these materials that doesn’t mean it’ll stay there for 10 years, it all depends on the substrate type and preparation done.
If you could provide one piece of advice to someone ‘up and coming’ in the wrapping industry what would it be?
Learn how to do it right rather than damage our amazing industry, I know the question said one piece of advice, but I also want to add don’t start your business with low prices, all that does is damage the industry, if you start low you’ve got nowhere to go.
What is the key to achieving a good finish, whether it be wrapping a vehicle or a kitchen?
Preparation, planning, and attention to detail.
What is the most common type of failure you come across?
With cars its failure to clean, failure to release tension, and failure to post heat, oh and damage to vehicles. Why do so many people think it’s acceptable to pull someone’s vehicle to bits with the aid of YouTube?!
With the Architextural products it’s a bit of the same, failure to clean correctly, failure to prime correctly, and attention to detail.
How important is the environment people are wrapping in?
It needs to be clean; the hint is in the fact that we use self-adhesive. Also, if it is too cold it means the material might shatter and if it is too hot it results in stretch.
What is the most frustrating thing you come across in relation to wrapping?
Unskilled & skilled wrappers thinking they are too skilled to learn anything new, oh and bosses who say their staff are the “best in the business” when I’m stood looking at a shocking wrap they’ve done.
Is there one specific product out there which you think is at the forefront of technology?
Every few years we get “game changers” that are so great everyone wants to copy them, 3M comply (air release), Arlon’s SLX, the Rollsroller. There are lots, it’s impossible to only mention 1.
What is the most impressive wrap project you have come across to date?
The first BIG one, the one that put Bart Simpson and the Discovery channel along with digital wraps onto every street in the UK. SKY wraps still look stunning.
Where do you see the industry in 10 years’ time?
Not a clue……. I hope we see many more PVC free products, I expected it to happen much faster than it has.
What makes you tick outside of work?
My boys, hubby, son and cocker spaniel, we moved during COVID, so we have a large project in a quite dale’s village, so lots of wildlife and a really good little local pub.