Once Jess Currie sets her mind on a goal, it’s hard to shake her confidence. The 36-year-old cabinet maker excelled in her apprenticeship at Melbourne Polytechnic, but she’s certain it’s only the beginning…
JESS ADMITTED she’s ‘fallen into a lot of jobs’ across her career. However, stumbling into cabinet making struck a chord with her creative side which led her to take it up fulltime.
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“I had moved to Melbourne to complete my Honours Degree, and a friend of mine was looking for someone to help make small homewares,” Jess said. “I said, ‘I’ll do it!’ I love making stuff, you don’t even have to pay me – I can just do it for fun. “Slowly, I started falling deeper into it. I started looking at ways of improving processes.”
HITTING THE BOOKS
Jess started working for Adam Brislin and Beeline Design at non-for-profit tradespeople co-op space WORCO in Thomastown (Melbourne).
“I started to realise how little I knew,” she said. “I went into a pre-app (pre-apprenticeship), which was a fulltime course, and then at nights I was coming back to the workshop for a couple of hours.”
Jess said doing a pre-app was great for building on what she’d learned on her feet, and was a great launchpad for undertaking a full apprenticeship.
“I excelled in some things – like cutting and machining wood – but there were things I didn’t know about,” she said. “The pre-app was really well-rounded. After that, Adam didn’t have any plans to hire an apprentice, but, after the pre-app, they asked if I could be an apprentice.”
THE DROP OF A HAMMER
Jess loved studying at Melbourne Polytechnic.
“Having the opportunity to make mistakes, trying new things and figuring stuff out for myself was really great,” she said. “It definitely stunk of Lynx Africa everywhere. But seriously, they had so many tools and machines other places don’t have.”
It wasn’t long before the opportunity came up for Jess to enter the running for Melbourne Polytechnic Apprentice of the Year.
“I won’t lie, that was big goal of mine,” Jess said. “Two years ago, one of Adam’s former co-workers won Apprentice of the Year. So I was like ‘challenge accepted’.”
The award involved Jess submitting a project and written portfolio. She doesn’t do anything by halves and went
all-out on her bid for the award.
“I wanted to do everything. I wanted it to have all the things,” she said. “It’s gonna have glass, it’s gonna have metal, it’s gonna have this, it’s gonna have that.
“After about three months, I ran out of energy. I just wanted to get it done.”
Jess said there wasn’t a word limit on the portfolio, so she naturally went gangbusters on that as well.
“I quadrupled the average amount. There were some that were 54 pages. Mine was 289,” Jess said.
“I had five appendices; I embedded a video into it. I even started an Instagram so people could see the process of the project.”
Jessie’s hard work paid off and she was named Melbourne Polytechnic’s Apprentice of the Year 2022.
“When I accepted the award, I dropped it on stage,” Jess laughed.
“There were 250 graduates watching on. Y’know what they didn’t do? They didn’t drop anything! “I don’t even know how it happened – it was in my hand one second then on the floor the next.”
Despite that minor mishandle, Jessie’s determination to win the award had her well-equipped for the next stage of her career.
Working under Adam as head cabinetmaker in his team, Jessie’s creativity is constantly getting a workout.
“Working for a small business, you put a helluva lot of yourself into it,” she said. “It makes you more stressed about making deadlines than at a larger company, which I think is great. “If I were working
for a larger company where my input was not as important, I would probably care less.”
It’s only been about eight months since Jess started working as a qualified cabinet maker, but she’s keen on continuing to chip away on projects at WORCO, and possibly set up her own space at the co-op.
“If a space becomes available, I’d love to do that,” she said.
“I have a lot of tools and my own machinery which I need to put somewhere.”
That’s not all, however, as Jess looks to carve out a career in her passion of restoring old furniture.
“Just over the Christmas break, I restored these mid-century-modern chairs for a dining table,” she said. “I’d really like to keep doing that on the side. “It’s like: ‘you were ugly before, and now you’re beautiful’.”