By Frances Harder
In the early seventies I found myself living in Munich and without a job. I had accompanied my first husband, an English aircraft engineer who had been offered along with many other British engineers a contract to work on the first Airbus aircraft. And of course when living in Munich, attending the “October Fest” is a must. I was part of a group attending from the Airbus design team that had been organized for engineers and international partners from Messerschmitt Bulkow Blohm (MBB). Consequently there was a very large group of mixed nationalities that took a number of table spaces in one of the many huge tents erected for this amazing two week very boozy festival.
Unbeknown to me and as it turned out very fortunately for me I was seated next to one of the big bosses from the new international project to create this first Airbus. He was a very polite German who made small talk then asked me what I did for a living and I innocently informed him I was a designer, to which he immediately responded “Ve need designers! Can you start on Monday?” To which I replied “YES”! However, I did somehow neglect to inform him that I was in fact a fashion designer! But I quickly figured out in my head that as I knew most of the drafting equipment used by the drafts people. Plus, I had met a few other “drafts women and men” who had informed me that they were employed to trace over design engineers penciled drafting work, sometimes referred to in the UK as “tracers” and in Germany as “Technical zeichnerin”) I really did feel confident that I could do the job while learning! (Remember this is before computer generated drawings were created and everything was drafted/drawn on drawing boards.)
So, sure enough I started work the next week working on the new massive Airbus (A300) for a temporary agency who employed me on an hourly bases. I could be let go with very little notice but was paid very well. I have to admit it was a little stressful the first few weeks trying to create a sense of familiarity with all the terms that went with my new job description. But, thankfully with the aid and secretive assistance from the many British engineers that were also working there in Munich I managed to master the job and be a fast learner. I really should add here that drafting and pattern drafting is really quite similar. After all where does a button belong on a garment is very similar to where we needed to place a rivet or bolt. Plus, due to my art degree training I had a good understanding of the use of the radiograph (fast drying ink pen) and the need to be precise and tidy.
This sometimes boring job was also an amazing life changing experience that I was fortunate enough to work in for four years before taking off for a one year trip around the world. My boss did ask me to stay to take training on the new CAD computer programs, but my new life was calling me and my second and forever husband!
Stay tuned for my next networking installment!