When did you first hear about the RCA, and why did you decide to study here?
I had always intended to apply for an MA after graduating, and I knew that ideally I wanted to study either here or at the Slade. I was attracted to the RCA Sculpture Programme because of the reputation that it has for being quite open – it’s less about a medium, here, and more about a way of thinking. I’m working with animation now, for example, and some of my colleagues come from painting backgrounds.
What were you doing before you started studying at the RCA?
I studied Sculpture at Brighton University. After finishing that BA I took a year out to work at an arts consultancy called Artinsite who produce art and design for hospitals and other healthcare spaces. I was working with them as a designer – it was a really good experience to make work in a completely different setting. As well as working with Artinsite I had a studio in Southend in Essex, which is where I’m from.
What have you found to be the main differences between your BA and your MA?
The main differences have been the higher standards in terms of both facilities and technical help. We’re encouraged to tackle technical problems with a real eye for detail here. On my BA, I was often figuring things out by myself and trying things out for the first time, while here there are people who are committed to helping you work out how to make something. I’ve learnt a lot of new skills here, and improved others that are feeding into my work in a big way.
What are the other students like?
The ages range from about 21–60+, and there’s a real mix in terms of previous experience. Some people who study here have already been practicing artists for years, and some are even lecturers at different institutions. People come from all over the world, too. I’ve learnt a lot from the people that I’m studying with, not just in terms of skills and techniques but also different ways of thinking.
Has your work changed or developed while you have been at the RCA?
Yes, drastically! I hit a bit of a wall when I first got here, and I couldn’t work out what it was I wanted to do. Then, suddenly, while I was away on a short trip I reached a kind of turning point. I started embracing new ways of working and thinking, and stopped being bogged down in the way that I was used to approaching things. Unexpectedly, I think the dissertation had a big impact on my work. It provided me with a lot of references, and context for the way that I’m working that I know I will keep coming back to.
Can you describe a typical day at the RCA?
I usually arrive at the studios around 9.30am. When I leave the studios on Thursday I like to know exactly what I’m doing when I get in on Monday. Because I work part time, I have to structure my time in the studio quite efficiently. I think that having a part time job – as well as being necessary financially – is a really useful thing because it makes you appreciate the time you have in the studio, and also gives you the opportunity to clear your head and think about something other than your work.
What have you found most rewarding about your time at the RCA?
I think it would have to be the studios, and the people in them. I’ve learnt such a lot from the people around me, and we have a very strong community. It’s hard to reproduce that outside of the art school. Because of Cross School Groups, crits, and lectures, you also get to meet a lot of other people from other courses. Conversations inevitably happen during those events and you start to hang out with people from all over the school not just your own department.
What challenges have you faced?
I think one of the biggest challenges that I’ve had to deal with is the pressure that you put on yourself to be always making new things. It can feel a bit relentless. It’s important to remember to also take time to sit back, relax and talk to people about your work. Although another challenging thing is making sure that you make the most out of the relatively short time that you have here. Two years can feel like no time at all.
Do you have any advice for students applying to the course?
I think that you need to come here with an open mind, and be ready to experiment and to learn. You should be open to constructive criticism, and equally open to failure. That’s one of the most valuable things I’ve learned.
"I’ve learnt a lot of new skills here, and improved others that are feeding into my work in a big way"