NTDC presents first TechMeet of 2023

15 March 2023

Frogs and spawn art

Technicians share details of how their ‘secret lives’ have improved their mental wellbeing

Technicians from three UK universities joined the NTDC earlier this month to speak about their ‘secret lives’.

Technicians Clare Templey (University of Nottingham), Lisa Hollands (University of Sheffield) and Kerry Truman (Nottingham Trent University (NTU) were guest speakers to the first TechMeet session of 2023.

TechMeet is a forum for sharing current events, best practice, opportunities and good news. 

Clare, Lisa and Kerry shared insights into their talents and hobbies outside of their work practices, highlighting the notion that a technician is ‘not just a technician’. 

In her spare time, Clare, a Physical Geography Laboratory Technician, makes artwork of animals and fungi using glass, which helps with her mental health.

She said, “I ensure my job as a technician does not define who I am wholly. My degree is in Zoology; I enjoy agility with my dogs, going for walks in nature, looking for wildlife and fungi, and also doing arts and crafts, which ultimately intersects with my interest in Zoology, as I create a lot of animal artwork (see featured image above).

“Building on my skills and pursuing new opportunities has grown my confidence and allowed me to network.”

Clare encourages other technicians to utilise their time off work doing the things that they enjoy. 

This is something that Lisa Hollands, a mental health first-aider, also champions. Outside of her work life, Lisa’s interests include knitting, crochet, cross stitch, wood carving, glass blowing, lamp working, and stained glass making.

Lisa, who is a Technical Engineering Team Leader in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at the University of Sheffield said, “I find making things really therapeutic; it helps my mental health immensely. 

“I have regular bouts of anxiety and depression and I find that keeping myself busy doing something creative can help a lot by giving me something to concentrate on rather than whatever is affecting me at the time. I also love colour and find that energising.

“I love having the sense of achievement that I have when I’ve made something, whether it is useful or beautiful to look at. I like gifting [the work I make] as I find it less stressful than doing a commission, and this is one of my stress relief methods.”

Stained glass artwork by Lisa Hollands

Having realised the importance of doing craftwork and the impact it can have upon mental health, Lisa created a lunchtime craft club at her workplace called ‘Crafty Lunches’ for people to socialise and share craft skills. She encourages colleagues to not work through their lunch breaks, and states that the club has been a “nice way of getting together, and not talking about work.”

Lisa enjoys sharing her craft skills with others and she often transfers many of her skills through her work.

She said, “Since taking up stained glass making I now have a better appreciation of how to make some of the colours, which I can talk about at open days. I can solder, and I know how to easily cut glass, all of which I have used at work to different extents now.”

Kerry Truman (right) assists in a makers session

Kerry Truman, a Technical Specialist from the School of Architecture, Design and the Built Environment at NTU, finds that as the subjects he teaches and supports grow wider in their creativity, so too do his own interests.

In his spare time Kerry engages in willow weaving, spoon carving, community outreach, laser cutting, and 3D printing. He states that his awareness of the processes and materials he uses helps to inspire new ideas that he shares with his students.

He said, “I use anything that I can get my hands on that moves or can take shape. My work heavily informs my [being], then my work informs my technical facilitation.”

Kerry shares his skills and knowledge via the NTU Makers Club, a community of learning and sharing through practical craft-based activities, which he established in 2016.

Prior to the Covid-19 lockdown, Kerry experienced a mental health breakdown, after struggling in a new work role. He said, “You don’t always know that you need the craft side of your job until you need it.

“Anything that you do that’s valid for yourself is valid. […] Being able to find what it is that is beneficial for my own well being constantly allows me to create opportunities to develop myself and share what I learn with others.”

“You’ve got to give yourself time to do things,” he added.

Kerry is always happy to share his personal wellbeing journey with others who feel they may benefit from hearing about it. 

He explains that TechsConnect, a weekly community where people can drop by and engage with fellow technicians from across the country, is a good starting point. “We support, share, discuss and encourage all aspects of what it is to be a technician - good or not so good.”

Kerry encourages people to always ask questions about the things they are interested in because this can often lead to opportunities. Or better still, he states, “Don’t ask and just do it!”

More information about TechMeet

Next Techmeet - 7 June 2023

Watch NTDC TechMeet 1 on YouTube

Clare Templey’s artwork on Facebook