Farewell to Eileen

This month we said farewell to arguably our most prolific Unison Colour pastel maker, Eileen.

Eileen used to look after John and Kate Hersey’s hens in the 1990’s when they were away from home – long before joining the Unison Colour team. She finally applied for a job in 1997 where she was given a role in the packing department, carefully labelling up and packing our pastels 3 days a week before becoming full time.

Eileen claims that our Quality Control and Colour expert Hazel, was given the job of making pastels instead of her! Yet all was meant to be, as Eileen soon became a maker too, trained up by Hazel as it turned out. She was soon making 1,000 pastels a day but says she had to slow down a bit to get her technique right.

Back then makers used pestles and mortars along with sieves to mix up the pigments by hand and wooden spoons to re-mix the pastel ends. She has seen a lot of changes since those days when the job was much harder on the hands.

Eileen has always liked making the darker colours like Additional 43 and the Brown Earth range. She’s never been keen on making Reds, especially Red 15 (which is known amongst the makers as one of the toughest pastels to roll).

Eileen has been making Unison Colour pastels for well over 20 years. That means millions of pastels have been hand rolled by Eileen since the late nineties and she has been our longest standing and fastest Pastel maker to date.

Her lovely Collie dog ‘Don’ used to accompany her to the studio in days gone by, happily watching on from his bed as Eileen worked her way through five different pastel recipes. 

She says the biggest change since starting in 1997 has been the technological advances in the way the pastels are made – which may sound strange given they’re all still hand rolled to this day! Things have moved on – particularly the way the pastel recipes are mixed prior to rolling.

Eileen’s tools of the trade have seen decades of use.  She thinks she’s got through at least three sets of pastel cutters that she’s crafted and honed since starting the job.

Farewell to Eileen 5

Her beloved long handled spoon was a gift from her mother and was an ‘ice-cream sundae spoon’ which she’s used ever since she started making pastels.

The spoon is beautifully worn on all sides and barely resembles its original form now. Hardly surprising having scooped out millions of coloured pastel blobs onto blotting paper, showing the signs of this repetitive action. It is a true artefact and testament to her many years of making our pastels.

Eileen loves to travel, her favourite place being New Zealand where she spent 5 weeks. She’s looking forward to doing more travelling and to getting out and about when she retires. Her plans include making trips to the coast, maybe to start singing with a local group and to make more soups with her new blender.

Farewell to Eileen 6

She’s been awarded the ‘Prettiest Pastel Prize’ most recently and says she will probably miss the fact that this job has become second nature to her. 

The very last batch of pastels Eileen made for us was Brown Earth 18 on a wet Tuesday afternoon in March but thankfully this was one of Eileen’s favourite pastels to make. A fitting final batch.

We gave her a lovely warm send off the following day in Kate’s kitchen with some bubbles and plenty of delicious food made by the team.

We all wish her the very happiest of retirements and thank her enormously for her exceptional and consistent hard work over the past twenty-six years here.

Happy Retirement Eileen. x

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26 Responses

  1. This was, without a doubt, the most beautiful post and tribute I have read in the art world. I applaud not only your company for this loving retirement wish, but to Eileen, on your retirement – I want you to know that thousands of miles away in Canada, this old artist will think about you making her tools for her and be grateful for the care and time you put into them. Thank you, Eileen. Please feel free to come visit in the Rocky Mountains if ever you are planning a retirement trip here. Again – with deep gratitude for the work and time you have put in so that all of us…can put beauty into the world.

  2. So Good to hear about a Master Pastel Maker – Eileen, who will go on to have a Happy Retirement, as I have, Painting with Pastels.

  3. What a great read, and sendoff… I’ve always wanted to make pastels, nows my chance!!. Have the best of retirement…

  4. Eileen, did you know that I describe earth colours to my students like ‘the controlling parents to the most unruly bright colours. To keep the brights in check you need the down to earths.’
    They ‘get it.’ It works and this fabulous rich colour is amongst those always selected..
    Thank you for being an amazing pastel maker. You’ve assisted hundreds of my art students to find their way – me too.
    Have a fabulous colourful retirement!

  5. Dear Eileen happy retirement- who knows I might have one of your brown earths.
    They are made with love and lovely to work with,
    Many thanks,
    Charles

  6. I will think of Eileen as I use my Brown Earth 18 and wish her a wonderful retirement full of travel adventures 🙌🏻. Happy retirement Eileen and thank you for giving us so much pastel joy during your long career with Unison Colour 💜 xx

  7. Thank you Eileen for all the beautiful pastels you have made – it’s an honor to use Unison pastels in my works. Best wishes on this next step in your life – traveling, singing, cooking…..enjoy!! If you decide to visit the state of Oregon in the US, I’d be glad to welcome you for a coffee and a visit.

  8. Thank you Eileen for making the pastels that I have worked with for even longer than you were making them for! Enjoy your retirement in beautiful Northumberland.

  9. What a fantastic read and fascinating insight into how your pastels are made!
    Happy retirement Eileen and thanks so much for the skill and passion you poured into crafting these beautiful pastels for so many years!

  10. Happy retirement Eileen – the Brown Earth’s are indeed lovely colours – thank you for rolling all that joy to pastel artists everywhere!

  11. Best wishes to Eileen for her retirement, those pastels are a delight to use having been given the personal hand rolled and shaped touch. What a lovely blog and send off.

  12. Thankyou, to all of you, your comments are appreciated I hope to carry on and see a myriad of sights of nature which will include the hues John Hersey reproduced with his pastels.

  13. (Translated)Best wishes for retirement! I love pastels from Unison! My name is Gulnur and I am retired, and I named my granddaughter Aileen, she is already 10 years old. Have a wonderful trip!

    (Original)С наилучшими пожеланиями при выходе на пенсию! Очень люблю пастель от Юнисон ! Меня зовут Гульнур и я на пенсии, а внучку я назвала Айлин, ей уже 10 лет. Прекрасного вам путешествия!

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