Kathyann Hinkson is the only female working among the guys in the paint and body shop at Simpson Motors. Her role is equally as important. The 43-year-old has functioned as a colour-matching technician under the title of storeroom clerk for the past 12 years.
She had previously worked in a similar role for almost seven years at Automotive Art where she learnt the skill. “To some people, it is a different job for a female but let me tell you it is very interesting and a lot of fun,” she told Barbados TODAY during an interview at the Warrens, St Michael car dealership’s workshop.
“I am responsible for issuing the guys who are painting with the correct colours. The guys would give me the paint code for the vehicle they are working on and I would go to my colour chart and verify which is the correct shade and we go from there,” Kathyann explained. She added: “I mix the colour. If it isn’t exact to the car, then I would adjust to suit to get the colour to what it is supposed to be. “When the vehicle is new, the colour is different to when it is driven on the road for like five/ten years because the sun fades out the colour.”
Before venturing into the present job which some consider to be in a traditional man’s domain, Kathyann, interestingly enough, was a qualified chef who worked at a number of established restaurants on the island. However, being out of a job for an extended period is what prompted her change of career. Encouraged by a friend, she applied to fill an opening at her previous place of employment before she joined Simpson Motors. “I say, ‘what is the job?’ and she said, ‘mixing paint’. I say, ‘mixing paint?’
But at the time, you wanted the money so I went to the interview and they called me for a second one and I got the job at Automotive Art where it all started for me. They taught me everything there,” she recalled. Kathyann gladly accepted the job offer but, as she admitted, she did not have a clue as to what she was getting into. “I thought white was white and black was black but that is not it. There are different whites and different blacks,” she revealed.
“I moved up while I was at Automotive Art. I went from trainee to mixing paint on my own. Then I went on to being a senior colour matching technician which means that I was over all the paint mixers. I even went to Guyana, St Vincent and Trinidad to train paint mixers.”
Kathyann enjoys working among the macho guys at Simpson. In fact, she said she prefers working with men than women any day. “They love me here. When I am on vacation, them does be messaging and calling me. We make fun every day in here honestly but if I wasn’t a strong person, I wouldn’t last,” she said. “No soft hearted woman can’t last in a garage with men. And especially you know that body work men and painters may not be the sweetest persons you know.
They can be tough at times.” She cautioned any woman looking to get into this field that mixing colours is not as easy as it sounds.
“It has to be something that you love doing because there are some colours that can be a lot of stress to deal with at times,” the former Coleridge and Parry student explained. “It takes you a long time sometimes to get the colours right and if you are not in the right frame of mind, you would get fed up. Sometimes a new vehicle may come out and people would say, ‘you could tell me the new orange on that Isuzu?’ Sometimes you have to mix and mix that colour over and over again.”
Kathyann still enjoys cooking but has no plans of abandoning the paint room to head back to the kitchen on a full time basis. For now, she is happy cooking for family and friends. Occasionally, she also treats the guys working with her to a taste of her hand. “I still like it yes, but I don’t think I would want to do it as a job again. Cooking is a lot of work; it involves a lot of prepping. People that just going and calling for a plate of food think that is all to it,” she said.
“You always have to plan, sometimes a whole week before what you are going to be cooking. It is time consuming. “But the truth is that I love what I do and it feels good when people appreciate it,” Kathyann said of her current job.
“All now some of the customers that I would have met when I was at Automotive Art would still call me asking for colour codes, or when they painting, a colour they have never done before, they would call and ask me. The job never gets boring.” In the car industry, Kathyann is about a more than mixing paint. She pointed out that what many people who see her in overalls moving through the workshop do not know is that she is also trained to paint vehicles.
“A lot of people don’t know this because I don’t do it right now. But painting is something I learned how to do before I came here,” said the woman of many talents.