Celebrating International Women's Day with Sisters of The Brush

March 8th, 2021

Being a woman in the predominately male orientated trade industry can seem like a daunting and often intimidating experience but four women from Derbyshire are challenging these gender-norms and bringing a fresh new look and approach to what it means to work within the trades locally.

Sue Ready, founder of This Girl Can Paint in Chesterfield told us that she “had this idea to celebrate International Women’s Day on 8th March by showcasing the fabulous work women and girls do in the trade as there can still be many misconceptions that only men and boys can pick up a hammer, screwdriver or paint brush.” 

Sue started her career 20 years ago working behind the trade counter of a local builder’s merchant. She said “back then it was rare for women to be in the industry but quickly learnt how to communicate and interact with the customers. I picked up so much knowledge working there and was given the opportunity by my employer to attend a professional decorators course which ignited my fire for painting and decorating.” 

‘I encourage any young woman to explore their trade passions and know that with the right attitude, dedication and integrity you can achieve absolutely anything.’

Nicola Lewis
Mrs Lewis’ Decorating

Fast forward 17 years and Sue decided that she wanted to go back to what she loved most and decided to switch careers just before a global pandemic engulfed the world. 

She said “I’ve always loved painting, decorating, art and just being creative. Deciding to become my own ‘boss’ was the scariest thing ever but I also had this feeling of being an imposter within a very male dominated sector.” 

This hasn’t held her back as the business has gone from strength-to-strength and she has been able to connect with other likeminded female painters and decorators across Derbyshire for support, guidance, advice and the odd bad joke. 

Kat Corbett from Pink Bristles, gave up a steady career as a secondary school teacher to pick up the brush full-time and create her own enterprise in Buxton. Kat believes “it is vital that you enjoy doing what you do”. She loves nothing more than a peeling bathroom ceiling, rotten window frames and problem areas, and once customers see how enthusiastic she is about the jobs they hate, they often her booked her back in to tackle more. Now 12 months into her new career she has never looked back and is excited to see what the next 12 will be like for Pink Bristles.

Nicola Lewis, Mrs Lewis' Decorating
Nicola Lewis, Mrs Lewis' Decorating

Nicola Lewis from Mrs Lewis’ Decorating is an award-winning decorator based in Matlock. Established in 2017, Nicola has been running the longest out of the bunch and has managed to balance a busy homelife as mother to two young children with the pressures associated with growing a successful business. 

Nicola remembers “when I was a young girl I used to spend lots of time watching my Grandad, a skilled carpenter and a man who could turn his hand to anything. There was nothing he couldn't create, fix or make to look beautiful. Watching him wallpaper was a sight to behold. He did it with such ease and I was always wowed by how transformative wallpaper could be. It was like magic happening before my eyes and this definitely sparked my love of decorating!” 

Nicola is committed to raising awareness and the profile of women in the sector “I encourage any young woman to explore their trade passions and know that with the right attitude, dedication and integrity you can achieve absolutely anything.”

Courteney Hadala–Holmes chased her dream of becoming a painter and decorator, and recently joined Sue as part of the This Girl Can Paint team. Courteney had been working in retail management for 12 years and is currently studying a NVQ Level 2 in Painting and Decorating at Chesterfield College. She told us “I thought about taking this step for many years but always put off taking the leap of faith and just stuck to what I knew. If lockdown has taught me anything, it’s that life is far too short. Every morning you have two choices, continue to sleep with your dreams or wake up and chase them. For anyone who may be in the same position as myself I urge you to go for it, do what makes you happy, it’s never too late. The only thing worse than starting something and failing, is not starting at all.”

Sue explained to us that she has received a very warm welcome from the trade industry in Chesterfield and cannot thank her suppliers, customers and peers enough. She also said “the point of this article is not to point the finger at men in the trades as there are many who have been accepting and supportive of what I’m doing. It’s to inspire and encourage other women and girls who have a dream and a passion, to go chase it and turn it into reality. Don’t just accept what society says you can or can’t do as a job, a hobby or an interest, you can do anything you set your mind to, and if you get to work doing something you love, it will never feel like work again!”

Photos by Simon Bernacki


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