Production Coordinator at David Gill Gallery - Dan Murley

Course: BA (Hons) 3D Design – Designer Maker

Current Location: London

“My favourite memory has got to be when I sold my final piece to the Vice Chancellor during my degree show… It was thanks to my lecturers that I managed to sell it for a good price, as they saw the worth in the piece.”

Tell us about your career path since graduation.

Since graduation I have worked in numerous workshops and studios. Beginning as an apprentice cabinet maker at my local workshop in Bristol, I now work as a production coordinator at one of London’s most important galleries of twentieth century design. Working alongside world class artists, I use my experience and knowledge of furniture construction to assist in the production of their pieces. It’s an exciting role and every day brings new challenges.

How has your degree helped/influenced your career path?

Completing a degree enabled me to work and study alongside other creative projects. It allowed me to experiment with new materials, discover new manufacturing techniques, and ultimately test my problem solving capabilities. This has proved to be an important quality needed in my current role as a production coordinator as I am often challenged to find solutions in key aspects of furniture design and fabrication.

What is the most difficult thing which you have faced in your career?

I think taking the leap from manufacturing to the design industry was hugely difficult. With little experience in this field, I had to believe in myself and gain the trust of my employer. Moving to London broadened my opportunities and allowed me to focus exactly on the type of career I wanted. It wasn’t easy, but I think my determination and drive to succeed has got me where I am today.

What is the best, most exciting or fun thing that you have done in your career?

Currently I oversee the production of 25 individual pieces. One of my proudest moments to date has been my involvement in the production of a gilded rock crystal chest. Having never previously used this material in furniture, it was hugely rewarding to see the piece completed and taking centre stage in the gallery. I certainly learned a lot overseeing this project and I look forward to using this knowledge in future designs.

Imagine you were about to start university again - with the benefit of hindsight - what would you now tell yourself to have done differently?

I would take full advantage of all the resources open to me. In some ways, I took this for granted whilst at university, and it was not until I left that I realised how many great opportunities there were to expand my skillset. For a career in design, it is important to take time to learn 2D and 3D CAD software. Careers often take different paths, and I can safely say the more you know the more opportunities will come your way.

If you were just about to graduate again, what would you do differently?

If I were just about to graduate again, I would make sure that I had gained more contacts within the design industry as a whole. I networked and got to meet several makers during my studies and this gave me a great insight into what to expect within the field. However, if I extended my search to a wider range of employers, I may have reached where I am now much sooner. It is important to focus on a specific area you want to be involved in, but be sure not to limit yourself.

What advice would you give to anyone wanting to get in to the same line of work?

Keep asking questions, increase your knowledge base, and be passionate about what you do. When managing a project be sure to understand all aspects involved and if you don’t know something, find out. Being able to take on a leadership role in this way is important to employers. Working well within a team, being able to multitask and show excellent communication skills, are also very worthwhile attributes.

How did studying at Plymouth help you?

Studying in Plymouth gave me the unique opportunity to get involved in design competitions, volunteering, and exhibiting my work in a highly professional manner. Getting feedback out of these situations only inspires you to further your career and helps to lead you in the direction you want to take. The lecturers were very keen to test how you approached design, and this in itself gives you a very attentive way of thinking.

What lessons/skills did you gain from your course?

Combined with joinery techniques, machining, and workshop safety, I was able to develop a broader understanding of design ideas. I learned to problem solve and communicate through a developed and individual language which has proved greatly important in the working environment. Being able to liaise with both tradesmen and clients is a great skill and can have really positive impacts on a project’s success.

Did you undertake a placement during your degree and if so, how did this benefit you?

From my first year I worked as an apprentice cabinet maker between my studies. It allowed me to gain a true insight into what the industry was like, what my career prospects were going to be, and the level of quality expected in order to succeed. Time was of the essence so I was forced to work fast whilst also keeping to a high quality. I would highly recommend gaining work experience whilst at university as it prepares you much better for life after graduation.

What is your favourite memory of studying at Plymouth?

My favourite memory has got to be when I sold my final piece to the Vice Chancellor during my degree show. I hadn’t really managed to make any sales up until then so I was really proud to have her like my work enough to buy it. It was thanks to my lecturers that I managed to sell it for a good price, as they saw the worth in the piece.

Do you stay in touch with other University of Plymouth alumni or lecturers?

Several of my course mates moved to London to secure work so I often see them during exhibitions and catch up on what everyone is doing – jobs include cabinet makers, set designers, teachers, workshop technicians, interior designers… the list goes on! One of my good friends is now a chef at a Michelin star restaurant. I rarely get any food out of him though!

Would you recommend undertaking a course with University of Plymouth, and why?

Definitely. You have so many options available to you after completing your A Levels, so speak to people, find a career which you want to take, and do your best to make it happen. Plymouth is a great city; there’s plenty of fresh air from the coast and everything is within walking distance from one another. The facilities are modern and the expertise surrounding you is world class.

Is there anything else which you would like to share with our current students?

If you are creative and you want to work in the furniture and design industry, be committed. It is a tough industry to get into so compare your portfolio and CV with others to make sure it’s in the best shape it can be. Get yourself out there and show a strong willingness to learn. Gaining as much experience as possible will set you apart from the crowd.

Inspired by this story?

Design Maker is one of three specialist pathways available as part of BA (Hons) 3D Design, alongside Spatial and Interior Designer and Product Designer. For more information about our range of courses within the School of Art, Design and Architecture, please visit the school page.

Want to find similar alumni?

If you would like to find out what other alumni from the school are currently doing, please visit the architecture, design, building and construction interest area.