Persistence pays off for Katie
Meet our youngest female Funeral Director
In a profession often perceived as being dominated by men, we speak to Katie Bull (23) our youngest female Funeral Director about her experiences getting started in the industry.
What made you want to work in the funeral profession?
I knew I wanted to be in the funeral industry since I went to college in 2011. I went to Leeds City College to study Media Makeup, Special FX and Hair. Part of that was learning how to do corrective makeup, which is neutralising skin tones, covering bruises and rebuilding skin with wax. I knew this was something that could be applied to funeral care as it tied in with care and preparation of deceased.
I didn’t really know much about the industry, but I knew I had a set of skills that would be beneficial to the company and the clients.
How did you get started?
I started applying for funeral roles at the age of 18, but I noticed it wasn’t an easy process because of my age and appearance. People have the idea that funeral roles are for more ‘mature’ men and not young, sparkly-eyed women. Nevertheless, I got some roles in Healthcare Administration and in Retail and still kept on top of my makeup training to build up my CV.
I finally managed to get some interviews for local Crematoriums, but sadly they wanted someone of a more ‘built up physique’. To me, it felt that again they were looking for a man. This encouraged me even more to want the job. I felt I had so much passion, enthusiasm, ideas and a want to change people’s perceptions.
What was your first role?
I joined the Co-op in 2015 as an Admin Arranger in York. I knew then I’d want to progress to be a Funeral Director, but I wanted to learn the basics first. I did this for over a year and gained my NVQ, but I was so keen to help families even more so I applied for a Funeral Director role in Heckmondwike, which I’m very happy to say I was offered and accepted in September 2016.
How do you feel about your role?
Families always ask me what makes such a young person want to do such a hard job. For me, it’s the last thing I can ever do for someone, and a chance for me to get it right in the most personal way.
I’m a very creative person, I like to draw, paint and bake in my free time and these have all come in very handy for the role.
I like being able to offer a unique tribute to a unique life. Baby funerals are indeed the hardest to arrange, understandably. But I’ve learned these are the times when you can be the most creative. To make things a bit more personal, I offer to paint our coffins, things like little monkeys and teddy bears – something that meant something to each family. It’s the little touches that seem to make the biggest difference.
What's your most memorable funeral?
This leads on to two of my most memorable funerals, a baby funeral last year. Sadly he was born sleeping and naturally mum and dad wanted to give him the most beautiful send-off. So I painted a teddy bear on his coffin, and I suggested we let off balloons outside the crematorium as a sign of remembrance, which everyone thought was lovely.
The second was again a baby funeral, sadly she didn’t make it to full term. Throughout this arrangement, there was a theme of pink and rabbits. I suggested for the burial to use rose petals for the committal instead of soil, which they thought was very fitting. We released some doves at the service and even had a horse and carriage. It was beautiful. It doesn’t stop there though. The family is currently in the process of having a memorial stone made with us, which I’m very proud to say I designed in keeping with the rabbit theme – it will be a very rewarding feeling knowing I’ve helped personalise this for the family.
Do you enjoy getting involved with your local community?
Throughout the past year, I’ve been involved in several community activities such as the Local Causes Celebration days, providing baking for Macmillan Coffee Mornings and laying Memorial wreaths. There’s one cause in particular that I’ve been involved with the most and that’s Howden Clough Community Centre, a wonderful group of retired men and women who invite me to their celebration days and Summer and Christmas Fairs. I provide some baking and they provide me with good company! It’s always a good laugh having a catch-up and a natter with them and hearing their life stories.
This year I am featuring in an exhibition called 'A Woman's Place?' which looks at the different roles women have had throughout the years and the perception of what sort of jobs women should have. This is taking place at Kirkstall Abbey. It makes me very proud to have this role as it's so rewarding seeing how much families appreciate my work.
Have you any advice for anyone wanting to follow in your footsteps?
If I could give any advice for those thinking of joining the funeral industry, I would say don’t let hearing ‘no’ or ‘not yet’, or ‘you’re too young for this’ get you down. Keep being persistent! Hard work, passion and enthusiasm pays off and you will get there eventually. Age is just a number and from my experience, a lot of our families have felt it refreshing to see the younger generation and more females in this line of work.