I started my love affair with artificial turf when I was 19 years old. I was a student at Abertay University studying Chemistry, and we were told after our first year that we had to do a one-year placement in industry. There were placements at Glaxo-Wellcome, the public analyst, an artificial teeth manufacturer and Bonar Yarns & Fabrics Ltd. as well as many others. I knew I didn’t want to work with artificial teeth for a year, and rumours were rife about the difficulty of the interview process at Glaxo involving third order reaction kinetics, an interview panel and a whiteboard.
So, I applied for the job at Bonar, not knowing exactly what they did, and somehow got the placement.
I turned up on the first day, with bright red hair and half my head shaved, tartan combat trousers and a Rage Against the Machine tour t-shirt. While this was a shock to my new boss Grace Taylor, she took it in her stride and told me about my projects while showing me around the factory.
It was love at first sight for me, the year passed very quickly, and during my last week they offered me a job when I finished my course, and they wanted to pay me a bursary during term time with paid employment during the holidays.
I was delighted, free money to take to the student union and a guarantee of employment! I signed up straight away before they changed their minds.
After university, I worked in the quality department, I worked 12-hour shifts for 7 years and learnt everything I could. I was desperate to understand how the machines worked and how the properties could be manipulated. I had a great teacher in my supervisor, it was a win-win situation, if he taught me how to adjust the machines, he could take longer breaks!
After my time on the extrusion floor, I moved into the office, and started learning about development. Here I had a new tutor Frans Harmeling, new colleagues to learn from – Davida Decorte & Filip van Laeken and a new technology – monofilament!
During this time, we had a lot of fun with new developments, working in technical services and traveling the globe. Constantly learning and expanding my knowledge, from raw material suppliers, machinery producers, tufters, installers, test-houses, academics, and of course most importantly - users of the turf itself!
I stayed at Bonar for over 20 years, but circumstances changed, and it was time to make a huge step forward. I was invited to join Don & Low Ltd. They wanted to start an artificial grass division and I was just the person to build it.
I believe if I had known how big a project it was to build a division from scratch, I think I would have thought twice about it. But as it turned out it was one of the best decisions I made, it challenged me like never before and put me on a steep learning curve. I found an amazing mentor in John Hughes whose belief in me, and my abilities made my confidence surge.
From finding the equipment, to selecting the materials. Developing the product range to finding customers. Sports testing to speaking at conferences. Production planning to quality testing. Budget season (yuck) to reporting to the board. I did it all, it is true when they say, you’ll never know what you are truly capable of until you are pushed to your absolute limit.
During this period, I developed two patent pending products for sports surfaces, and produced the world’s most resilient contact sports yarn, which maintains unrivalled sports performance over the lifetime of the surface.
For a while I had an idea about starting a grass extrusion consultancy, after everything I had achieved at Don & Low and all the knowledge, I had acquired I felt I could do more within the industry I loved if I went out on my own.
Imajica Consulting was set up to help grass companies. If you are planning to start extruding your own yarns but don’t know what machinery you need, or which suppliers then I can help.
If you want to develop new products but don’t necessarily want to hire a full-time research and development person, I can be that resource.
You want to produce a sports specific system, and have it tested to governing body standards, I can advise what works and help organise the testing.
You have a quality issue with a material, yarn or even a surface, then I can help find the cause and set out corrective actions or be an independent third party if required.
If you are looking to buy a sports surface and want independent advice on what you should be looking for and the right questions to ask a during a sales pitch by suppliers, I can assist you to ensure you have the right surface for your needs.
What I discovered during my career so far is that I am a problem solver and I really enjoy solving problems*.
* Turf problems only, I am useless at problems involving your love-life, making French macarons, third order reaction kinetics, or any calculus actually, or directions don’t ever ask me for directions.