Just about everything at Unison Colour is done by hand, even in the packing room!
First thing in the morning we go to the makers' studios where last night's pastels are taken carefully out of the driers. The huge wire racks, with no edges, are quite heavy, and we have to keep them level, as 250 pastels sliding onto the floor would be a disaster. The pastel makers make three colours a day each, so to lose one colour would be a big loss.
We check each colour to make sure it is dry, accurate, not scratchy, or breaking. After that we take the newly rolled pastels off their blotting paper and line them up onto the wire racks for drying the next night. Some delicate colours are air dried. Carrying the boxes back, making sure we don't trip over the chickens, Cathi double checks the colour. She knows most of them by heart! All being well, we add them to the shelves, which is like a sweet shop, 424 different colours, like tiny sticks of rock.
Then its down labelling and packing. I am the newest member of the packing team and it takes a little while to master the technique of holding a pastel in one hand, and labelling it with the other so that the label is tight, and completely clean. Everyone does it slightly differently. Getting them into the black boxes without any marks is also an art! It can take all day to complete a shop order, longer if it is a big one. It can be a very meditative and relaxing process. Finishing a big box is very satisfying, 72 pristine colours, like a rainbow I have made myself. The colours are always inspiring and uplifting, and none of us tire of them. We are also experts with parcel tape, boxes, bubble wrap and marker pens, and
Alan,the postman, comes to collect our masterpieces everyday! Occasionally an intrepid traveller to our rural idyll, comes in to choose a set of pastels themselves, and as they gasp at the rows upon rows of breathtaking beauty, I feel very privileged to work here.