All Woman

Karen Burke - Honing her craft

By KIMBERLEY HIBBERT

Monday, August 11, 2014    

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HER staff of 26 know her as the ultimate banking professional, the woman who always works to get the job done at First Global Bank.

But what they don't know is that at the end of a stressful week, Karen Burke is transformed, and is likely to be at home in her shop, sawing away at wood.

Burke describes herself as a craftsperson at heart and a banker by profession.

The vice-president of credit risk and administration at First Global carves wooden caravans, wheelbarrows, pieces that decorate the patio, souvenirs and scented candles, which she operated as a business a few years ago.

"I love my staff and I'm passionate about their growth and development. The responsibilities are huge and they see my serious side, which is my work side. I care for them and their welfare; I mean, the job is there to be done, but without people you can't get it done," she told All Woman.

"But at home I have a little room I work from. I have my tools -- I go to the hardware where I get my lumber and supplies. Over time I've acquired different pieces of equipment including a drill, circular saw, sander and table saw, as well as clamps, nails, screws and hammers. On weekends you'll catch me in the back doing something..."

Burke considers her love for craft to be a natural gift from God and attributes every aspect of it to Him, but she said the appreciation came shortly after leaving Morant Bay High.

The St Thomas girl from Pigeon Valley has always been surrounded by nature, having lived on 25 acres of land filled with cattle, coconut and pimento.

She attended Golden Grove Primary and Infant School, which is located in a traditional farming community, and where her mother taught.

"I always dabbled in art and craft from childhood days, but coming up I never appreciated what I did until I realised that when I got those projects in home economics my teachers would always keep my things and everybody got to take theirs home. It never gave me much pleasure at the time, but it was later on that I realised that clearly there was something different about my work. It's a natural talent, not something I trained for or got special instructions in; it came naturally."

She said she works on her craft on weekends, particularly when she has a difficult week.

"I go to work from seven or eight in the mornings and I'm there until 7:00 pm. I'm devoted to work, but this is my hobby and I've been fortunate to be able to sell pieces, so it's a lucrative hobby."

Lately, Burke has taken up learning to play the saxophone, which she said has been her lifelong dream.

"Growing up I loved Kenny G and instrumentals, so for my birthday I decided to buy myself a sax and teach myself to play by ear with the help of CDs. Other than woodwork, playing occupies my evenings and I didn't grow up reading music, so that's the most challenging part, but I will definitely continue with it," she said.

She thanked her parents for allowing their children to explore all their dreams.

"I don't fence myself into one career and I thank my parents for allowing me that freedom. My sister is a medical doctor and my twin brother is an engineer. I wanted to be a doctor but I loved food and nutrition. My first degree is in hotel management and I worked in the hotel industry for five years. I did my master's in accounting and finance, then worked in the Turks and Caicos for a year and started in banking with Citibank," she said

"My parents allowed me to follow my heart and supported my candle business which was full-time. My route is not traditional and I'm very open and I don't rule anything out."

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