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Isla Macer Law

MA Jewellery & Metal, 2015–

What were you doing before you started studying at the Royal College of Art?

Before coming to the RCA, I studied Jewellery and Silversmithing at Edinburgh College of Art. Then, for the year between graduating from my BA and starting my MA, I worked as an Artist in Residence at Glasgow School of Art.

When did you first hear about the RCA, and why did you decide to study here?

I came to the RCA degree show when I was 18 and just starting to apply for art foundation courses. It was this degree show that made me realise that one day I wanted to study here. All the work looked so confident and I felt a really exciting, creative momentum contained within the building. I can still remember that feeling of productivity and busyness.

What have you found to be the main differences between your expectation of studying at the RCA and the reality?

I think that I have a tendency to idealise the unknown. Expectations naturally differ slightly from the reality. You never imagine the things that go wrong or the times when you just have no idea what you are doing. While my time at the RCA has definitely been a different, less perfect experience to the one that I had imagined, it has also been much more interesting. The challenges have been constructive and some of the most difficult times have often been the most useful in terms of the growth of my practice.

Can you describe what it’s like studying at the RCA on the Jewellery & Metal MA? What is a typical day like?

I don’t think that there is such a thing as a typical day here! I like to come into the studio early and have a couple of hours to myself before the day starts. That's when I do my best thinking, and plan what I want to find out or make that day. Our programme is really sociable and most days begin with a coffee and long, often silly, conversation with whoever is around. There is always a lot of chatting, a lot of running around, a lot of looking out of the window. 

At the RCA there is always something else going on that you can add to your day if you want to: a lecture, a film screening, or an exhibition opening. I often go to things like that at the last minute. So no two days are ever really the same.

What is the mixture of students like on your course?

Our programme is very international, which I think is a really good thing. My BA in Edinburgh only had nine students per year group, and they were mostly from the UK, so for me it has been a great experience to work in a bigger studio with people from all over the world. We do a lot of eating together in the workshop, so this diversity also makes the daily food options pretty good!

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

My work has changed a lot since I started studying at the RCA. I have been given the space to work out what it is that I am interested in, and what it is that I think is important. There are no expectations here, and no sense that you should work in a particular way or style. This freedom can be daunting at first, but I think that it has allowed me to make my own way and for my work to change as it needs to.

Have you been set any briefs or projects that you've particularly enjoyed working on?

Jewellery & Metal runs a series of core projects in the second term of the first year. For these core projects, the year is divided into small groups based on your choice of project, and you're expected to work quite intensely on this seven-week brief. All of the different core projects are designed to push you in different areas of your practice, and how you are pushed depends on which option you choose. 

Initially, I found working on my choice of project to be a bit like banging my head against a brick wall, but ultimately I think that what it achieved was to get me to turn round, and to start to think in a completely different way. On reflection this was the most significant project of my first year, and it's a project and a process that I will continue to look back on.

What has been the most rewarding part about your time at the RCA so far?

While I have been here, I have been pushed to deconstruct my creative process and, while that has been difficult at times, I have learned that this level of self-reflection can be an extremely useful tool. Aside from that, I think that when I look back on my time at the RCA what will stick with me most is the great people that I have spent two years working alongside.

"While my time at the RCA has definitely been a different, less perfect experience to the one that I had imagined, it has also been much more interesting."
Isla Macer Law
Isla Macer Law