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Crafts Job Profile: Millie Ashdown - Exhibition Builder

We are highlighting the wealth of opportunities to build a career in craft through our Craft Journeys, a series of profiles that ask people work in the sector how they got there.

Tell us about what you do

I work for a company that builds scenery for the entertainment industry, focusing mostly on exhibitions. I’m the CNC machinist, which means that I run and programme a CNC machine. 

As a machinist the bulk of my work involves cutting scenery for the fabricators to piece together and build, however there are some jobs that are CNC-specific and need more precise machining to be completed. One example is when a job will require signage with a lot of text on it, another example is when a job requires a 3D texture and we mill the exact texture into the material.

What did you study?

GCSEs: English Language, English Literature, Maths, Additional Maths, French, Physics, Biology, Chemistry, ICT, Music, Art, Business Studies, PE 

A-Levels: Physics, Mechanical Maths, Art, Music, Photography and Architecture as an extra-curriculur subject

I have always been a creative person but have also really enjoyed the academic subjects such as science and maths. When choosing my subjects at school I always had the thought of “choose something you enjoy but that will also help you get into the career you want.” At the time I wanted to be an architect or design engineer so chose the subjects that would help me pursue that path – Art, Physics, Mechanical Maths – the other subjects I chose because I enjoyed them.

What have the main challenges been?

The subjects I chose at school were all very intense subjects that required a lot of work. Time management became a huge thing in my life, I had to learn how to balance work/study, hobbies and personal life. 

In my career I’ve faced a lot of judgement from other people who either don’t understand what I do and therefore think it isn’t a worthwhile career to pursue, or who don’t believe that females should work in a workshop environment. When faced with this I’ve just reminded myself that this is my life, I’m doing this for me and not for the acceptance of others. 

What advice would you give to someone embarking on a career in craft?

If you are passionate about it and it sets your soul on fire, absolutely do it. The arts sector is such an amazing place to work, every day you’ll face a new challenge and you’ll always be learning something new. 

Don’t think “this is my job, this is all I’m interested in, I’m not going to learn anything else.” It is so important to keep learning all the time; even if you feel the skill you’re about to learn will not benefit your career, it may help you develop as a person, build confidence or even help you create a new way of thinking. Keep trying new things and working on your passions; developing as a person is just as important as developing your career. 

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