Inside

Christopher Riggio

MA Ceramics & Glass, 2015–
What were you doing before studying at the RCA?

I came to London five years ago, primarily to find work, after graduating from Concordia University in Quebec. Soon after arriving, I opened a modest ceramic studio in Peckham, South London, and eventually started working as an assistant to a graduate from the RCA Hitomi Hosono, who encouraged me to apply here, and even wrote my reference. After my interview I was offered a scholarship – the Charlotte Fraser award – which pays for my fees. I’m very grateful for that!

Why did you decide to study at the RCA?

I wanted to push myself, as well as to understand the ceramics network and see how I could learn from it. I also wanted to give my work more context. Previously, I had been working on sculptural jewellery, which doesn’t fit easily into a particular practice.

Has there been a project that you have found particularly useful or inspiring?

In the first year, you are set a series of specific briefs that are designed, I think, to push people out of their comfort zones. I took the project with the V&A quite seriously and worked closely with the RCA’s  jewellery and electronics technicians to make a mechanical sculpture. It was great to feel that I had the support for whatever I wanted to do. 

During the first year, we also had a competition set by the Worshipful Company of Tin Plate Makers in London. I won that competition, with the set of pottery tools I created looking at ornament in utilitarian objects. That was very encouraging!

What have you found to be the main differences between your BA and the MA?

For me, it’s mainly about the support system. We have one-to-one tutorials where we discuss our personal ideas. That’s not something I previously had access to. The number of public lectures that are available College-wide is also brilliant, and I’m very fond of the open access policy of the RCA, and being able to cross over into different programmes. For the tin project, for example, I used the welding machine in Jewellery & Metal, and the fly-press in Sculpture to crush my minerals. 

Another thing that sets this MA apart is the success that the tutors have had in their personal careers – both the faculty and the students have an immense amount of drive and ambition.

Has your work changed or developed while you have been at the RCA?

Yes. I think the briefs set in the first year have had a huge part to play in what I'm doing now. The network of students here has also been very important. I've gained so much knowledge from my co-students. I don't think my work would have developed in the same way without them.

What is the mix of students like?

It is a very diverse group. We have students on the programme who have never studied ceramics, including artists who might already be very successful in their own field. Everyone arrives with a different knowledge base. We’re all quite open about what we’re doing, and while there aren’t a lot of collaborations per se, there is always a lot of support and encouragement. The criticism, whether it’s expected or unexpected, always leads to new discoveries.

What have you found most rewarding about your time at the RCA, so far?

I think that what I have found to be most rewarding is having access to a ceramic community that includes not only people in the programme, but also RCA alumni and the RCA’s professional contacts.  

How do you see your work developing this year?

My latest project was inspired by Lucio Fontana’s painting The Moon in Venice. At the moment, I feel like a gem-maker from Victorian London. I am using my knowledge of jewellery and ceramics to adorn sculpture, combining the microscopic elements of jewellery with the macroscopic elements of sculpture in order to push the limits of both.

"After my interview I was offered a scholarship – the Charlotte Fraser award – which pays for my fees. I’m very grateful for that!"
Christopher Riggio
Christopher Riggio