Stephanie Alishan
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The year I spent at City & Guilds of London Art School studying the Foundation was one of the most rewarding academic years of my life. Having reluctantly given up art to study science at university, I never thought I’d get the chance to complete a Foundation. With the opportunity arising in my early twenties, I could not be happier to have finally become part of a creative academic institution, or in my choice of art school.

 

Why did you choose the Foundation Diploma at City & Guilds of London Art School?

I chose to study at City & Guilds of London Art School because of both the high tutor to student ratio present in smaller classes, and the creative freedom I felt in the studios as I walked around during the open day. While there are many options for Foundations in London, there are few that offer such generous contact time with different tutors throughout the week. The range of skillset present in the tutors alone is a real blessing for students who are trying to find their medium. Having experienced traditional drawing and painting fine art facilities at my secondary school, the Foundation workshops allowed me to push my skillset further, gaining real craftsmanship skills in woodwork and analog photography. The glass workshop is also so unique, and provides a great opportunity to try a historic craft that is often out of most students’ financial reach. The combination of supportive tutors and facilities has allowed me to enter creative establishments with a level of confidence I didn’t previously think a Foundation could provide.

 

How did the Art School’s specialist facilities help extend your practice?

My work developed tremendously over the year, with the opportunity to engage in any of the workshops throughout the year almost any idea was an option. Finding myself drawn to the darkroom initially, I began experimenting with 3D immersive installations using analog projection and photography. The continuous access to all the darkroom equipment was essential to my studio practice, and I’ve left the year more comfortable developing my own film, creating my own photographic materials and producing film enlargements then I ever thought possible. Towards the end of the year I delved further into casting, using metal to create moulds of my own body, which I then presented in a vitrine I was able to build myself at the school in the wood workshop.

 

Our tutors are all practising artists and makers. How did your tutors support your development?

The course is a full-time 5-day week, however as a mature student I had to work while balancing the Foundation. The open communication provided by the tutors, as well as their availability whenever I felt I couldn’t keep up is not something I’ve experienced at many other academic environments. Their willingness to let me integrate my own personal experiences into my work, without judgement, was so valuable as I figured out what kind of artist I wanted to be. Themes of intimacy and confession have been a thread throughout my work, and having tutors that can both guide and inform your work, while allowing you to maintain your own identity is something I’ll be forever grateful for.

 

Having now completed the Foundation Diploma at City & Guilds of London Art School, what are your career plans? 

The Foundation course at City & Guilds of London Art School was my gateway to life as an artist. While most students who complete a Foundation will go on to study an undergraduate degree, the skillset I’ve acquired on this Foundation has allowed me to continue my practice alone upon graduating. Now living in Guatemala, I’ve been able to exhibit work here and collaborate on creative projects. I will forever be indebted to the tutors, facilities and overall creative energy the Art School provided me.

The three years I spent in the carving department at City & Guilds of London Art School were some of my happiest times. Before enrolling at the Art School I was a working stonemason, with a few years training under my belt and a degree in fine art, but I had very little confidence in my abilities.

My education in the craft had been a little haphazard, I carried out an informal apprenticeship in stone masonry, with a fair amount of learning on the job, which meant that most of the time I felt as though I was ‘winging’ it. Thankfully I had a good background in letter carving which opened my eyes to what a thorough education in craft can feel like.

When learning a practical skill such as carving there are two stages to the education process. Firstly you have to educate your mind and your eyes so you understand what it actually is that you’re looking at and what you’re trying to achieve. Secondly you have to learn the physical skill of transferring your knowledge through your hands, creating what your mind now understands.

The carving course delivered a perfect balance of these two elements. This was done through art history, life drawing, anatomy, drawing, modelling, carving, museum visits and walking tours around London. I now have every confidence that my eyes are trustworthy and my knowledge is sound, and that my hands have the skill to make whatever I imagine.

That is a truly wonderful feeling and is the part of the Art School’s fantastic teaching, which I carry with me every day and apply to everything I do.

Since graduating in 2016, I have been working as a self-employed carver. I have been able to balance my work between private commission and my own practice. I was fortunate enough to present work to His Majesty the Sultan of Brunei, the British High Commissioner in Brunei, members of the Royal Warrant Holders Association as well as local schools and businesses. I am a British brand ambassador for John Smedley (2019-2020), with a film of my work shown in the window of Harvey Nichols in October 2019. I have also been featured in the Essential magazine.

I currently have work in an exhibition in London, and I’m working towards a solo show next year. Whilst I love working in my own studio, I really miss the Art School and my carving department family.

Read more about Zoe here.

What really stayed with you from your time at the Art School?

Two things really stayed with me after graduating. The first was having found a real sense of community at the Art School; it is a very special place for a multitude of reasons but, in an age of increasing technological growth, the school is not only swimming against the current, but making it’s own path. I remember on my first day being surprised that I had found so many people as passionate about carving as I was, and who were equally happy to talk about the subject for hours on end! Having now graduated, I am constantly amazed at how many people I meet in the industry who trained at the Art School. It forms an instant connection and also a sense of respect, as the course is so highly regarded.

The other thing that has stayed with me is how much I learnt and progressed over the three years. The one-to-one tutorship from professional carvers is fantastic and really helps you develop. There is real encouragement to push yourself to the absolute best of your abilities.

What projects were you involved in while studying at the Art School?

Whilst at the Art School I took on a number of exciting projects, particularly in my second and final year. The Art School are great about encouraging you to take on commissions for your final year, which not only gives you valuable experience in dealing with clients, but also helps your bank balance.

I was asked to produce a memorial plaque for the memorial hall in my home village in Kent for the centenary of World War One. The famous war poet, Siegfried Sassoon, grew up in the village and so we decided to use the last line from his popular Aftermath poem for the inscription as well as copying his signature. The work was unveiled in 2018 during a memorial service.

One very fun project was being asked by the Royal College of Arms to produce the new heraldic crest for Roald Dahl’s grandson, which depicted the Roly Poly bird from the much loved books sat atop a circlet of medieval clouds. Being a big fan of Roald Dahl’s work, it was a real honour to make this crest, but also a good challenge as the client wanted the bird to appear in motion.

What are you up to now?

I’ve just finished a year of working at the Houses of Parliament, specifically on Westminster Hall, helping to restore the incredible medieval roof and angels inside. To go straight from the Art School into this type of work was a wonderful opportunity, particularly learning how to carve onsite and all of the challenges that come with that.

I now have a workshop in London for the summer and am happy to be back focusing on building my own carving business,  working on commissions for private clients. In the near future my wife and I will be moving out of London to set up base in the South West, where I hope to one day begin running short courses in carving alongside my own work. I’ve always loved working with people, and am keen to share this great craft with others.

www.williambarsley.com

 

 

At City & Guilds of London Art School, we encourage students to work in their studio space and our specialist facilities for five full-days each week. How did this shape your practice? 

When I started the Foundation course at City & Guilds of London Art School, I was progressing from a part-time art & design BTEC and was concerned about committing to the full-time courseload. However, I quickly saw that using the full 5 days of studio time allowed me to focus on making lots of work. Not all of it was successful but it was important to have all that time to develop my ideas in a dedicated space alongside other student artists. You’re expected to be mature and take charge of your own learning: the first few weeks help establish best practises and how you might structure your day, but it’s up to you to maintain a good rhythm.

 

How did your tutors support your learning?

Tutors are ever-present and generous with their time. All staff are practitioners with their own specialisms, covering many skill areas and interests between them. I’ve always found tutors are very interested in what you’re doing, whether you’re working with more traditional skills or–in my case–an unusual mix of processes. I began knitting in a fine art context; by the end of the course I had programmed a game, and my tutors were open-minded and encouraging throughout. You’ll always find useful guidance and constructive suggestions for how to move your ideas forward and what shows or artists to research if you get stuck.

 

How did our range of specialist facilities and resources help extend your skills? 

My work was nourished by free, open access to workshops, life drawing sessions, and the wonderful school library. We were also encouraged to make the most of London’s art through weekly group gallery visits in the Autumn term. This provided a framework for independently seeking out interesting exhibitions, workshops, and talks that sustained me creatively throughout the course.

All these resources meant that my academic interests from my first BA in History of Art extended into visual practice in a completely organic way, going in directions I had never anticipated. Any self-consciousness about being a mature student was quickly subsumed by my desire to make the best of my time at a unique art school.

 

How did the Art School’s thriving creative community influence you?

City & Guilds of London Art School provides an immersive environment where it feels natural to consider art as a serious lifelong pursuit. Glimpsing the range of creative activities going on all around me, from historic carving just beyond the pigment garden and BA and MA fine art in the studios, helped me feel I was part of a lively little community.

What really stayed with you from your time at the Art School?
All the different pathways it introduced to me – I left with a lot of options I would never have guessed existed when I began, and an amazing community of clever, kind people to call on when questions come up! It’s been ten years, but I have very clear memories of sitting in the sunny courtyard – dusty and happy.

What did you work on during your time at the Art School that has proved valuable in your professional career?
Getting my hands on a variety of materials and working between departments was invaluable. Our fantastic drawing classes have underpinned how I approach almost every project and carving one of the Windsor grotesques was fun!

What did you learn from lacquer expert and former Head of Restoration, Margaret Ballardie?
I was part of the final Japanning class that Margaret taught at the Art School, and in the opening minutes she introduced a totally unfamiliar term, urushi. She was the very first person I ever heard say this word I now use more than any other in daily life – well, some days it might come in second after ‘delicious’ – oishii!

My classes with her got me really excited about the relationship between British and Japanese craft history, and a few months later I had the opportunity to see them in action, thanks to the Art School’s David Ballardie Travel Scholarship. I spent two weeks in Japan in my second year, returned for a couple of months on a Winston Churchill Memorial Trust scholarship, and thanks to these things was invited back out her to live.

I wouldn’t be where I am today without my time at the Art School, and with Margaret Ballardie. I’m very grateful.

What are you up to now?
I’m undertaking a PhD at Tokyo University of the Arts, working with the Japanese technique of kintsugi – mending with gold and Japanese urushi lacquer. I do repairs and make new works based on the thinking and practice behind the method. I’ve lived in Japan for two years and should be here a couple more years at least – although this year I’ll be traveling in Europe and other parts of East Asia, to learn, teach and exhibit.

Images by Sybilla Schwaerzler.

What really stayed with you from your time at the Art School?

The generosity and patience of the tutors really stood out for me. I remember several, very long tutorials which completely changed the way I thought about art. Because there were so many one to one tutorials, I felt that the tutors really understood what interested me and the help they gave was always very specific.

 

What projects were you involved in while studying at the Art School?

I had trained and worked as a portrait painter before starting the MA, so for me the course was about trying to understand the theory surrounding painting. Mostly I looked at the ‘myths’ associated with the canon of western art. For the final show I made a series of paintings, investigating the connection between Rococo paintings by Fragonard and Boucher and contemporary aesthetic expressions of the feminine.

 

What are you up to now?

I’m working towards my first show with Parafin early next year. At the moment I’m on a six-week residency organised by @thegreatwomentartists in Italy at Palazzo Monti.

Before applying to study my Foundation, I intended to study History of Art, not really knowing what a Fine Art degree entailed and intimidated by the jump in quality I had observed looking at graduating fine artists and comparing this to the work I had done at A-level. By the time I started studying at City & Guilds I knew I wanted to pursue Fine Art and abandoned my HoA place. However, through attending the Foundation course I was able to really further and question my practise in comparison to the prescriptive and descriptive nature of my A-level studies. The school exposed me not only to a different way of thinking about art, but practically enabled me to explore different medias that had not been available to me at school such as: casting, etching and print making, photography and design. Without this experience, and the development of self-initiated practise, I truly believe my experience at degree would be crucially hindered, even to the most basic level of a preliminary knowledge of what it is like to study an arts degree.

What in particular has stayed with you from your time at the Art School?

I think one of things that has particularly stayed with me after leaving the Art School was the confidence and support the tutors gave me, not only in furthering my practise but also when putting my portfolio together, helping with my personal statement and with interview practise all for early application. The investment in individual students at such an early point in my studies was indicative to me of an Art School that really strove to support us in our academic pursuits, however they may have manifested.

What have you gone on to after leaving the Art School?

Since leaving I have continued to study Fine Art at the Ruskin School of Fine Art and Drawing. Now half way through my degree, my practise has developed from a discrete sculpture and video works to a more expanded practise encompassing print, film, writing and site specific performances. Deeply embedded on the specific British history of the dissemination of aural mythologies and ritualistic earth based healing and magic practises, I am currently trying to build an archive of ‘testimonies’ that contrasts this research with the more contemporary Wicca practises, and, to an extent the industrialisation, digitisation and consumerism which is now inextricably inherent in our landscapes. However, underpinning all my work is a fascination with the essential violence and abject interstitiality of our bodies.

I have also presented work in exhibition Al Denté at The Dolphin Gallery in Oxford, and more recently in ‘NEHCTIK’ at Strange Cargo in Folkestone, and am currently preparing a performance for a semi-collaborative outdoor exhibition in Oxford. I have also shown my work on Industry Magazines digital edition ‘Food’, and have two sculptural performances, writing and some drawings in The Edgar Wind Society’s journal Oculus’ edition  ‘nowhere/now here’.

What advice might you give to current Foundation students?

My advice for current Foundation students would be to make the most of the experience, the Foundation year is a unique space with complete freedom for experimentation with an availability to technical assistance and space that you may not receive at some universities at degree level. Make bad work where you have the time and freedom to and be completely open to change in your practise. Also where the opportunity is provided immerse yourself as much as possible in learning how to question and talk about your art.

What really stayed with you from your time at the Art School?

The emphasis on craft skills was challenging but highly rewarding. I found the skills I picked up in life-drawing vital in teaching me how to really look and critically assess an object, which I have consistently needed in conservation.

What did you work on during your time at the Art School that has proved valuable in your professional career?

The conservation course at City & Guilds allows you to treat a wide range of objects, composed of many different materials. Though I have, since graduating, specialised in gilding and frame conservation, I still use many of the skills I acquired in other areas, including the treatment and analysis of stone and painted wooden objects.

What are you up to now?

Since graduating I have worked in private practice, in a conservation studio specialising in treating gilt and lacquer objects. Having then completed a frame conservation internship at the Guildhall Art Gallery, I worked for National Maritime Museum as a frame conservator and at the Houses of Parliament to make new frames for works on paper. Last year I worked at a new National Trust conservation studio at Knole. I am presently a frame conservator at Tate and the Guildhall Art Gallery. I also supervise conservation students on a frame conservation work placement at the Palace of Westminster.

 

IMAGE

  1. Mark Searle water gilding replacement ornament on the frame for the painting ‘Seascape’ by Peter Graham. This treatment was completed for the internal exhibition ‘Victorian Decoded’ in 2016-17.

I was attracted to the Conservation Studies course at City & Guilds, by what I perceived to be a unique emphasis on developing historic craft skills and a comprehensive teaching of conservation science theory. On the day of our graduation, Dr Marina Sokhan reminded my year group that for every module we had studied during the preceding three years, we had been taught and mentored by at least one leading specialist in every subject. The quality of teaching at City & Guilds means that with every new project I undertake, I know that I am equipped with the relevant knowledge and understanding to feel confident. The training I received also instilled in me a rigorous approach to my work. Since graduating, this has been manifest for example, in the unpicking of complex problems pertaining to individual objects in the studio or, bringing a methodical and reflective approach to larger scale site-specific projects.

The reputation of the course enables us students to apply for training experiences within many notable institutions in London, the UK and abroad. The opportunities which I have been able to enjoy by becoming a City & Guilds student, I could not have anticipated. Between my second and final year of study, I interned with the Gilding Conservation Department of the Royal Collection. I learned a great deal on this placement and enthusiastically took up the opportunity to work on a suite of lacquerware belonging to HM The Queen, during my final year. I was thrilled to be awarded by the school, ‘Best Conservation Project 2014’, for this work. Students are required to dedicate a huge amount of time and effort to excel in this course. To me, the ethos of the school seemed to be more than a willingness but a gladness between students and staff to share knowledge, expertise and support. I acknowledge that I owe my success to having studied in this unique environment.

The support received by students, can also take the form of financial assistance. Being a recipient of a generous bursary from the Lawrence Atwell enabled me to dedicate so much time to my studies. Sponsorship from the Zibby Garnet Travelling Fellowship, Venice in Peril, the Gabo Trust and the Clothworkers Foundation, took me to countries including Italy, Russia and Hong Kong. To have had the experience of witnessing conservation practice and meeting practitioners from around the world, has certainly broadened my horizons as well as my understanding of the profession within a global context.

Since leaving City & Guilds, I have been continuously busy with work in the field. Immediately after graduating I worked for the Royal Collection, conserving objects for inclusion in a catalogue raisonné, and have since worked at several London museums. At Sir John Soane’s Museum I focused on the conservation of picture frames, working closely with professionals from the department and the wider museum staff. For one year I was Project Conservator of Queen’s House, Royal Museums Greenwich. This huge and complex project required me to draw upon so many skills developed during my training including conservation of wood and stone, wood carving, gilding and environmental monitoring.

Presently, I continue to build on my experience within private practice. My focus has been drawn towards the conservation of gilding and decorative surfaces. One of the most pleasing aspects of our profession is the culture of sharing information and opportunities to meet, study and work together. With this in mind, I have recently become a committee member of the Icon Gilding and Decorative Surfaces Group.

IMAGES

  1. Queen’s House ceiling progress shots
  2. Assessing sculpture at Basilica San Giorgio Maggiore, Venice, Italy as part of Venice In Peril Internship 2014
  3. Conducting endoscopy on a ship model with curatorial staff at National Maritime Museum 2016
  4. Conserving a Russian icon painting at St Petersburg Art Academy during a summer placement 2013
  5. Conserving a Soaneian display case at Sir John Soane’s Museum 2015
  6. Interning at the Royal Collection 2013
  7. Presenting a poster at IIC Hong Kong Congress 2014
  8. Working on lacquer plates belonging to HM The Queen at City & Guilds 2014

The BA Conservation course at City & Guilds is one of the most challenging things I’ve ever undertaken. The sheer scale of the course and the range of subjects students are expected to excel in cannot be understated. I can vividly remember that mingled sense of excitement and trepidation on receiving my first term’s timetable. Every day was full to bursting and the range of topics covered seemed so broad – wood carving, history of art, chemistry, and conservation ethics to name just a few. I couldn’t wait to get started.

I had no formal experience studying any of these topics; my first degree was in History and Philosophy. However, I had some creative and trades-based professional experience and had been volunteering with the National Trust prior to joining the course. Having graduated from the BA Conservation course, I feel comfortable discussing, describing, and applying knowledge learnt from across this broad syllabus.

So, if I was to choose one thing that has really stayed with me it would be the sense of privilege at being exposed to and encouraged to learn so many wonderful and disparate subjects. I can remember studying historical craft manuals in the morning and modern analytical techniques such as FTIR in the afternoon, perhaps a day’s life drawing followed by a day or two practicing how to produce and analyse cross sections sampling objects. This sense of the sheer scale of the course at City & Guilds has stayed with me into my professional life as I find myself able to hold my own in conversations with curators, scientists, crafts people, and a full range of other stakeholders.

I also particularly remember learning craft skills: gilding, wood carving, stone carving, lettering, japanning. I realised early on that while each craft discipline had its own very specific components, there was also a cumulative, transferable aspect to these skills. My understanding of the structure of wood or the composition of sedimentary stones was informed by my having cut and carved those materials; I watched my increasing brush skills, from having applied gessoes and pigmented shellacs and egg tempera paints, all funnel into a dramatically increased dexterity when working to consolidate Japanese lacquer or gilded surfaces; I saw my practical knowledge of the creation of multi-layered decorative surfaces from creating panel paintings, gilded, and japanned surfaces provide me with a deeper and more nuanced understanding of how these systems degrade and how they might respond to different treatments.

I can also say that many of the relationships I formed with tutors and peers have stayed with me. All of the tutors at City & Guilds are practicing experts in their respective fields. This means that they are able to deliver high-level, practical skills and experience to students while at college, but also means they continue as mentors, employers, or simply as a familiar and encouraging presence in the sometimes alarmingly small world of conservation upon graduation. Similarly, our year group has maintained contact despite our disparate trajectories since graduation, continuing to support and encourage each other throughout our various trials and successes.

The emphasis on practical applications for all the skills we were developing also proved invaluable. From early in my first year, lessons on basic object assessment and dry cleaning learnt in the classroom were applied at Westminster Abbey, Rochester Cathedral, and St. Bartholomew the Great church.  From early in the second year we were working on objects owned by private clients and major heritage organisations and institutions. I found this exposure to real-world working conditions particularly helpful as it helped me to develop an appreciation of the importance of pragmatism and compromise, of deadlines, and of clients from the outset of my practice.

All of these factors have combined to mean that since graduation I have been continuously employed in one form or another. I have worked as a gilder, a stone conservator, a preventive conservator, a private furniture restorer, a conservator of gilded frames and furniture in private practice and a conservator of furniture and oriental lacquer at the Victoria and Albert Museum. All of this work has come in some way that’s to my association with City & Guilds, either directly through former tutors or peers, or as a result of the tireless work of Marina Sokhan in recommending and advocating for her graduates. It is only thanks to the diversity of the syllabus and the high, high quality of the teaching at City & Guilds that I have so comfortably been able to take on what at first glance may seem such diverse roles.

And it is thanks to this diversity of post-graduate experience, alongside my hard work organising conferences and events with the Institute of Conservation (Icon) via my involvement in their special interest groups, that I think played a vital role in securing me a permanent position at the British Museum as an organics conservator with special focus on wooden objects late in 2017. I feel like now, 3 years since graduating, the process of learning what it really is to be a conservator can really begin. Working as a permanent member of staff at a large national museum allows me to work on a wonderful array of objects, all of often very high quality or significance. But it also allows me to access training and conference attendance, to utilise the latest practical methods and analytical techniques, it will facilitate my path towards professional accreditation, allow me to learn from incredibly experienced and talent colleagues, and in time to begin to pass on some of what I’ve learnt.

I couldn’t have dreamed when I started at City & Guilds that within 3 years of graduation I would have landed my dream job, let alone that I would feel I had earnt it. I continue to believe that I am very privileged to do the work that I do, and without City & Guilds none of it would have been possible.

IMAGES

  1. © V&A, 2017. Cleaning lacquer.
  2. © V&A, 2016. Looking for areas of lifting brass and shell on a Boulle table.
  3. Retouching areas of loss in the entrance to the Chapel of St. John the Baptist, Westminster Abbey.
  4. Conducting experimental practical work on the electrolytic reduction of lead corrosion on lacquer.
  5. Oil gilding in the Sovereign’s Robing Room at the Palace of Westminster.
  6. © The Trustees of the British Museum. Shared under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0) licence. Carrying out veneer replacements on a long case clock.
  7. Consolidating a C19th export lacquer tea caddy for my 3rd year practical project at City & Guilds.

I think what I valued most about the Historic Carving PG Dip was the pace and intensity.  There is so much to do, so much to learn, so many opportunities and avenues to explore. I loved the challenge and found the work incredibly rewarding.

The Art School also has a very particular and special atmosphere like no other, layers of Art School history, unique architectural character, garden oasis and community.  It was inspiring and energising to be surrounded by people with such depth of knowledge, creativity, talent and skill – around every corner there was some interesting material or process to discover.  During London Craft Week I was captivated by a demonstration of Japanese wood carving by master woodcarvers and conservators from Tokyo University of the Arts – this led on to me being able to visit them in their studio in Japan.

What projects and workshops did you work on during your time at the Art School?

As a Post Graduate student, I had freedom to tailor my course experience and made the most of all the diploma projects; drawing, modelling, carving and lettering. I was full time for the first year with support of a Masons Company bursary, and part-time for the remaining two.  Fortunately my part time employer, Heatherwick Studio, was very accommodating and allowed me to fit my work around the timetable.

I think the most surprising experience was the drawing programme which was exceptional in its planning and delivery. I actually didn’t know it was possible to teach drawing in the way Diane Magee does – she opened up a whole new world for me and many other students. The drawing threaded into everything. In particular, drawing drapery at the V&A for five days was a wonderful and eye opening experience and it helped me to win a Taylor Pearce drawing prize!

I was also particularly interested in lettering and we had many four day workshops from different renowned professionals each offering a completely new perspective of the craft; brush lettering, calligraphy, raised letters, drawing directly on to stone, casting with concrete.  Tom Young’s core teaching was drawing and cutting Roman capitals, minuscules and italics, but he covered so much more valuable and practical information in terms of handling and preparing stone, painting and even demonstrated how to install a gravestone in the garden.

In the second year I was lucky enough to be selected to design and carve a new grotesque for St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle.  Initially I wasn’t sure there would be enough time for this extracurricular project, but I’m so glad I did it because it taught me a great deal about responding to a brief, presenting my work and most crucially how to carve to a commission!  This led onto being able to complete a sculpture of a pair of pillows and another of a coat – unimaginable before I began the course (and they were also prize winning).

What are you up to now?

Since graduating, I rented a shared carving studio space in London and continue to work part time.  I participated in the creative development programme through the Clyde & Co Art Award, which led on to me forming an Artists Advisory Group for newplatform.art who founded the award.  I was also fortunate to be selected for the annual FBA Futures exhibition from my degree show and this has led onto lots of opportunities and commissions. I’m currently engaged in a number of public art projects, I continue to make work and figure out what it is I do!

Website:                                    www.lizmiddleton.com
Instagram:                                liz_middleton_stone

Discovering the carving department at City & Guilds of London Art School was like unearthing a rare and precious treasure. It’s a very special place, for me mainly because at its heart is a solid, traditional (and importantly) hands-on, practical learning that gives you a solid set of traditional skills, that you can add to, experiment with and develop in your own practice after graduation. The course structure is both interesting and comprehensive; in addition to the woodcarving and gilding, practice is enhanced by lessons in drawing, modelling and casting.

During my time at the Art School, I didn’t feel restricted in developing my skills and the tutors were encouraging in not only the course projects but also let me experiment with my own ideas. In my opinion, the amount of effort and time the tutors put with each student is what gets such great results. The small classes make for fast and personalised learning.

The ongoing friendships and collaborations both between students and with tutors past graduation, are a testament of the creative, dynamic environment that the Art School nurtures. It is a cosy, open-minded but serious Art School where you don’t feel like just a number, unlike some of the big universities. What stayed with me in particular, are Kim Amis’ modelling classes, both fun and terrifying, always made me go away with a great story as well of course invaluable new skills!

Whilst at the Art School, I was fortunate enough to work on gilding the Royal Barge for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, which vastly accelerated by gilding knowledge. My design was also chosen for the Fishmonger’s Company Menu Design competition. I was also grateful to have received a bursary from the Drapers’ Company, which paid for my course fees while at the Art School, which meant I could fully focus on my studies and take on less Art Directing TV work. I was also delighted upon graduation to receive the William Wheeler Prize for Outstanding Work, which was a lovely send-off and gave me even more confidence.

Since graduating, I have been fortunate to be able to split my time between personal projects, private commissions and collaborations. I also have a background in Art Direction for Film & TV which has acted in my favour, since it is very useful to have both practical skills as well as design training and understanding how to create an environment, and so has made me a very versatile collaborator.

In my own practice, I spent some time after graduation perfecting my verre eglomise artworks, a technique which I was introduced to while at the Art School. I exhibited the resulting large-scale, gilded illustrations for London Craft Week, 2016 and was named as one of six “best exhibitors that are going to perform during London Craft Week” by Boco de Lobo. I also exhibited my verre eglomise at Clive Christian in Harrods.

My favourite collaborative projects have been where I have been working with talented and progressive designers. For example, I worked with MUSEEA on the award-winning “Utopian Bodies, Fashion Looks Forward” with my carved mannequins in Stockholm. This collaboration has led to an ongoing relationship with Proportion London, an artisanal mannequin manufacturer. Most recently, I designed and built a large installation of raw wood and willow sculptures for Margate’s Dreamland “Treetop” entrances in collaboration with d_raw Associates. This project was also special as I was able to employ two fantastic, past woodcarving students, Mike Watson and Marcus Gill.

With my woodcarving personal work, this year I have been experimenting with stripping back to simpler, tactile shapes and subverting materials, encouraging interaction and playing with scale. An example is the huge 3 meter “Memory Chain”, made from one single length of pine, currently exhibited at The New Craftsmen in London and is also part of their collaboration with 1st Dibs.

I am also in the process of creating my “functional sculpture” series – wood carved pieces that not only tell a story but also have a function, such as a light or sculptures with secret compartments. Right now I’m working on a trio of hand-carved, twisted rope lights. After which, I hope to realise a collaboration with a very exciting surface design company and an exhibition at the beginning on the New Year.

This November, I move into the eagerly anticipated Peckham Levels, where I will have a new studio space. There, I hope not only to create exciting new work, but also inspire others and reignite interest in age-old crafts by demonstrating that a traditional approach to technique and craftsmanship, blended with the exciting developments in technology and materials can create unexpected and beautiful results.

So I would say, that the Ornamental Woodcarving and Gilding course at City & Guilds of London Art School gives you a lot of core skills, that can take you into whichever direction you choose, be it into restoration or art and design. So far I have worked in Miami, Stockholm and New York – with solid knowledge and passion, you can go anywhere!

Images:

Rococo mirror – carved and gilded lime with verre eglomise mirror. Image: Perry Patraszewski

“Memory Chain”. Image: The New Craftsmen

Proportion London Craft Event, (demonstration) Image: Cecily Puckett

Khokloma inspired carved and painted child mannequin. 

William Morris inspired, carved arms for “Craft and Form” room for “Utopian Bodies, Fashion Looks Forward” exhibition in Schiaparelli Couture. Image: Serge Martynov

“The Sacred Feminine” – verre eglomise.

 “Tribute Chain”. Image The New Craftsmen

My time at City & Guilds of London Art School was a great experience. I was a carpenter before I came to the Art School and enrolled on the Historic Woodcarving and Gilding course. My knowledge of wood and how to work with it was already in place and CGLAS took it to another level. 

I was expertly guided by the tutors through all the aspects of the course. The drawing classes with Diane were incredible. From a complete amateur I was turned into a capable drawing student. Learning life drawing and anatomy skills and tonal studies and developing a love for drawing and ornament. 

 I was also taught how to realise these drawings in the modelling and casting class by Kim Amis. What an experience. All of a sudden in the second year things clicked and all of these skills were put to use in the extensive tutored carving classes. 

 The support from tutors and the office staff was second to none and I could have asked for nothing more. The library is fantastic and Harriet the librarian went the extra mile to help everyone succeed. 

 I loved my time at the Art School and having finished a few months ago I already have my own workshop in Manchester with work coming from all sorts of clients. City & Guilds of London Art School prepared me entirely to do this and I know I can always contact the tutors if I need some advice. 

The Art School was extremely supportive in helping me secure funding for the course, this eased the burden of studying full time in London and meant I could focus efforts on my studies. As a course teaching heritage skills there are many different types of funding and bursaries available. The college offers all the necessary help and information to apply and I’m grateful that they helped me to find funding for every year of the diploma.

The one class that has continued to resonate throughout my career is the drawing element of the course. It is the basis of everything and the quality of the teaching at City & Guilds of London Art School helps prepare you to tackle any subject. However, it is not one particular class but rather the importance that is attributed to all parts of the course, from the theory and history of the craft to the practical skills, that together set you up for a career in stone carving. It gives you the knowledge and technical ability to continue to develop your own practice and approach any project or subject matter with confidence.

The course is well rooted in the tradition of the craft, and the teaching provides a foundation in all of the classical skills associated with carving. This enables you to develop a process that could be applied to any particular project. The tutors are all working professionals and have a different background and approach to their own practice. This is reflected in their teaching and offers a broad and diverse range of experience, methodology and subjects. It is the wide-ranging approach that sets the course apart and provides a skill set that continues to develop and inform your working practice well beyond the three years of the course itself. On finishing the course the college has continued to play an important role in my career with the alumni network providing ongoing support, work and opportunities.

 What projects were you involved in while studying at the Art School?

The college and tutors are keen for students to gain experience in external projects and commissions during the course. I was involved in the project to design a series of replacement grotesques for St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle. I also won a competition to design, carve and install a lettering plaque at the Yorke Trust, a small church in Norfolk. This was a paid commission and one I completed during Art School hours with the help and guidance of the tutors.

What are you up to now?

I am a self-employed stone carver and letter cutter. The majority of my work is in stone conservation and restoration, working on projects both on site and in the workshop. I also carry out carving and lettering works to commission.

After graduating I worked part time as an assistant to a sculptor, whilst also completing some carving work that came off the back of the graduation show. The final show was a good opportunity to promote myself and my work and resulted in a couple of commissions. This was a massive help as I was able to continue with my own carving but without too much immediate financial pressure. I also took on a small space in a shared workshop, renting with other stone carvers.

Studying Foundation at the Art School was crucial to my growth creatively and as an individual. The course drew me out of ‘a-level’ thinking and encouraged me to be more experimental and confident. Throughout the first 10 weeks you experience a diagnostic period which exposes you to a huge range of art and design disciplines, vital for everyone, even if you think you already know your pathway.

I actually had a place to study History of Art at university, but my time at the Art School confirmed to me that I wanted to continue studying art and design. After the ‘Found Object Jewellery project’, I was exposed to a practice that explored the boundaries between art and design on the body, and I decided to apply for Jewellery Design.
The Art School provides accessibility to such a variety of workshops. I was exposed to working with new media including traditional printmaking, film, photography, glasswork, woodwork and metalwork. Getting one-to-one advice and attention from technicians was such an opportunity especially as I did not have experience working 3-dimensionally, the foundation really helped to improve my approach.

What in particular has stayed with you from your time at the Art School?
During my time at the Art School, the history of art program not only exposed me to concepts and movements but to galleries and museums around London, which I had not been to before but continue to visit for inspiration since. The drawing project also developed my primary research skills as it encouraged me to look closer at the world around me.
The tutors and technicians are devoted to their students at the Art School, and I am still in contact with a number of them, who continue to show their support and give me guidance.
I would 100% thank the Art School for building my self confidence and enabling me to work independently, which is crucial whether you are working or studying.
My final project is still my favourite work I have done to date. The tutors and technicians encourage even the most ambitious of ideas and help you to execute them. I focused on creating glass jewellery that was used in a performance to demonstrate the intimacy of breath. This performance element of the work is an aspect I continue to incorporate in my jewellery design.

What have you gone on to after leaving the Art School?
After the Foundation Show, my film was shown at a music and art event “VeryLove presents: Cultural Capital” at the Copeland Gallery. Since Foundation I started studying BA Jewellery Design at Central Saint Martins in September 2016. I have also had work displayed at the V&A during London Design week 2017 as part of a showcase “Extra-ordinary:Inspired by Balenciaga” responding to their “Balenciaga: Shaping Fashion” exhibition.

What advice might you give to current Foundation students?
I would advise students to realise the opportunities the Art School provides. You get your own working space and the tutors and technicians are available to discuss work daily – which might not be the case on your degree. Keep an open mind even to projects that don’t necessarily seem to suit you, there is something to be learnt from all of them and treat this year as a chance to experiment. City & Guilds of London Art School is an incredibly welcoming environment and I would encourage Foundation students to take advantage of the facilities as much as possible.

Being on the Architectural Stone Carving course gave me the opportunity to work with tutors who had long-standing knowledge and expertise in the industry. If you want to be a practicing stone carver it is the best place to train.

What really stayed with you from your time at the Art School?

One of the first things that struck me about the Art School was that it feels like a close-knit family and this sense of being part of a community continues with you when you leave. The tutors and office team are very supportive and helped me to find contacts as well as funding through bursaries which enabled me to complete my studies. One of the most useful aspects of my practice that I have taken from the course is the importance of drawing as both a way of working through ideas, and a method of deepening my understanding of a subject. The tutors have high expectations and with their guidance I learned to assess my own work which has been essential to my continued development.

What projects were you involved in while studying at the Art School?

While on the course there were many opportunities to win commissions and prizes. I was lucky enough to win two paid commissions. The first was to design and carve a grotesque for Saint Georges Chapel, Windsor Castle, the second a sundial for Kennington Gardens. During the summer break I worked as a studio assistant on a carving of the Queen for the front of Canterbury Cathedral. At the end of the course the students exhibit their work in a final show where prizes and commissions can be awarded. One of my projects, a copy of the giant Klytius from the Pergamon temple, won the Masons Company Carving Prize for that year.

What are you up to now?

After leaving the Art School I set up a workshop suitable for modelling and working stone. This is something that I don’t think I would have done without the knowledge and confidence I gained on the course and has enabled me to take on a number of private commissions.

Alongside this I have been teaching carving in the stonemasonry department of Bath College. Working with the various students through the numerous complex carving problems they face has broadened my experience quickly and given me some insight into how incredibly dedicated the staff at City & Guilds of London art School are to the art School and their students. It takes an extraordinary amount of time and effort to create the quality of carver that the Art School produces and it has been a joy to see one of my students go on to be accepted onto the course in London and know that they are in the place they need to be to really accelerate their progress.

IMAGES

1.Libyan Sibyl, transcribed in clay from Michelangelo’s Sistene Chapel Ceiling fresco.

2.Klytius, copy-carved in limestone from a plaster cast of the original in the Pergamon Museum, Berlin.

3.Sundial, slate and limestone, for the Friends of Kennington Park.

Sam Flintham received bursary support from the Sheepdrove Trust and Grocers Company and was awarded a QEST scholarship.

 

The close and regular contact with tutors & staff, and their total dedication to the students was extraordinary.  The tutors are all, without doubt, the very best in their fields, and were always more than willing to share their experience and expertise.  The very informal atmosphere at the art school encouraged me to feel free to approach my tutors with any question or ideas I thought they might be able to help with.

It was a challenge for me to finance the course myself, but the amazingly friendly staff at C& G couldn’t do enough to help. I was very fortunate, with their help, to receive bursary support from a few organizations through the art school, and I continue to have contact with some of my benefactors.  Without that support, I would have struggled to complete the course undistracted by financial concerns.  I will never forget their generosity

I still keep in touch with many of the tutors at C&G. I sometimes still hear their voices when I am working on one carving or another, and now that I am teaching stone carving myself, I understand even more just how generous they were with their time and attention.  There is no other resource as valuable as that.

 What projects were you involved in at the art school?

As a postgraduate student, I had the freedom to explore subjects of particular interest to me.  It was a time to explore different approaches to stone carving and gain confidence and understand the value of drawing and modeling as essential supporting tools for exploring and understanding a form before committing it to stone.  But my main interest was in letter carving, and I was especially excited by a special opportunity, set up by our letter carving tutor, Tom Young, to work with a variety of the country’s most celebrated letter carvers, who would run optional two-week projects.  Those projects gave a real boost to my letter carving and the fact that they were short projects meant that we had to be more spontaneous in our approach, allowing for new and surprising possibilities.

 What are you up to now?

In addition to  working on various lettercarving and other commissions, and teaching an evening stone carving class, I’m taking time to develop my ideas for a series of work that was very much inspired by projects I was involved in at the art school.  Though my primary interest now is in letter carving, it was during my time at the City &Guilds Art School that I discovered a strong desire to explore the intricacies and forms that various fabrics describe, and this series of work is a deeper exploration of that discovery.

IMAGES

1 & 2) Thin Air, Portland limestone, 2016, and Salt, Caithness slate, 2016, both part of a series of commemorative work entitled Never Lost.

3) Drapery Study, Ancaster limestone, 2014

4) Portals Prototype, naturally riven Welsh slate, exhibited at the Sir Harold Hillier Gardens, Hampshire in 2014.

Bobbie Fennick received bursary support from NADFAS and won the Lettercarving Prize and the Taylor Pearce Drawing Prize.    

The greatest asset of the Carving course is the people, both tutors and peers. It is the friendships and connections I made that I value most from my time at the Art School. The sense of support and encouragement remains as strong today as it did when I left.
The tutors are all leading practitioners of their fields and it is the access to their knowledge and experience that makes the teaching at the City and Guilds so valuable. They are also all immensely generous people.
I also benefited hugely from the financial support that was available, in the form of bursaries from the Masons’ Company. I was also awarded the Sydney Mason Award. This support meant that I was able to see my studies through to the end.

What projects were you involved in while studying at the Art School
We worked on a wide variety of projects in drawing, modelling and carving. These all complemented each other and challenged us to constantly see and think in new ways. We also had workshops with visiting lettering tutors, including Richard Kindersely, Charlotte Howarth, Brenda Berman and Phil Surey.
The History of Art module was also an integral part of the course and helped to put our carving work into context. The trip to Venice with tutors and fellow students from across other disciplines was particularly special.

What are you up to now
Since leaving the Art School, I embarked on a three-month ‘Journeyman’ scheme with the letter carver John Neilson. This was sponsored by the Lettering Arts Trust, who also awarded me the Harriet Frazer Bursary Award.
I am currently a self-employed letter carver. Work has been a combination of: carving for established letter cutters, which has been a fantastic education in itself; my own letter carving commissions; and showing in a number of exhibitions around the country. I have recently received a Travel Bursary from the Fresh Air Sculpture Show.

Ayako Furuno received bursary support from the City & Guilds Institute and Sydney Mason, she won the Neil Shannon Memorial award for Stone Carving.

As well as woodcarving and gilding, the course covered a wide range of disciplines, from fundamentals such as drawing, modelling and casting to more specialised areas of practice like lettering and bronze casting. Each discipline has a distinct skillset, but all of them are closely related to one another and ultimately feed back into woodcarving, and it was fantastic to have the opportunity to develop all of these practices at the same time. It supported me to build a solid foundation to continue developing skills in many different directions and opened up possibilities that enabled me to work in a very versatile way.

I received some brilliant teaching from tutors who were passionate about their disciplines, and I have ended up working with quite a few of my tutors after graduating from the Art School. This is also one of the special things about the Art School; you become part of a community that includes your peers and your tutors, and you stay in that community when you complete the course and start working in the industry.
The City & Guilds of London Art School was also very supportive in other ways, and there were a number of prizes and bursaries available to students. I received the Idun Ravndal travel bursary for a study trip to Norway in the first year, and the David Ballardie travel award in the second year, which enabled me to travel to Italy to research Renaissance carving and sculpture. I also received support towards my tuition fees from the Le Cras bursary in the first year and The Sheepdrove Trust bursary in the second and third year.

What projects were you involved in while studying at the Art School?
In my first year, the Historic Carving Department collaborated with architects at Studio Weave on a project to create a new public space near Bank, on the site of a Romanesque Church that burned down in 1666. The woodcarving students each designed a set of oak benches with Romanesque style designs, and we had about 10 solid weeks of paid carving work during the summer holiday, which was a brilliant experience and we learned such a lot from working on a live commission.
The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee coincided with my second year, and the Historic Carving department designed and created the helm sculpture on the Royal Barge. Along with many of the students from wood and stone carving, I had the opportunity to work on some of the modelling of the sculptural elements as well as oil gilding the finished sculptures. We were all very proud to see the Barge in action at the Jubilee event looking rather splendid..

What are you up to now?
After three years as a freelance woodcarver working on a variety of commissions including a projects in carving, designing, restoration and gilding, for institutions, famous contemporary artists as well as individuals, I was offered a position at Carvers and Gilders Ltd in Battersea. This is one of the countries leading workshops specialising in 18th century giltwood furniture. I currently work there as a conservator and restorer, while continuing a freelance woodcarving and sculpture practice at my own workshop near Kennington.

Takako Jin received bursaries from Le Cras and Sheepdrove Trust. She was awarded the Idun Randal Travel Award and won the Brian Till Art History Prize and the Gilding and Decorative Surfaces Prize.  

“One to one conversations with tutors were essential to me as I’d never really had the opportunity to sit down with practicing artists before joining the course.”

“The most valuable aspect of studying at the Art School was for me the standard of tutoring and general intimacy of the school: small classes and cross departmental relations.”

What did you get up to after graduation?

I decided not to do an MA after graduating so spent two or three years trying to find my feet. In that time I worked as a gallery technician and learnt a little bit about the commercial side of things. I continued to make work and exhibit in group shows and in 2004 Charles Saatchi bought three works which led to my first solo exhibition in 2005. I have since shown work extensively in the UK and internationally, included in exhibitions at the Museum Kunstpalast in Düsseldorf‏, the Venice Biennale and the Reykjavik Art Museum. Collections include The Olbricht Collection – Berlin, the Salsali Private Museum – Dubai, and the Wellcome Collection – London.

I left London in 2011 and now work from a studio on the North coast of Cornwall where I grew up. I keep close ties with London and beyond and continue to exhibit regularly – most recently in a group exhibition curated by Kathleen Soriano at Somerset House. I have also started to focus on public commissions.

What really staid with you from your time at the Art School?

One to one conversations with tutors were essential to me as I’d never really had the opportunity to sit down with practicing artists before joining the course. Often they were bewildering as I arrived with all sorts of presumptions in mind. I clearly remember for example when a tutor approached me and questioned whether a work I was half way through making might in fact already be finished. This completely threw me but I put the work down and in hindsight I know that this was one of the first works that truly relates to what I do now. There were many conversations like this that I still reflect on.

The most valuable aspect of studying at the Art School was for me the standard of tutoring and general intimacy of the school: small classes and cross departmental relations.

 

“With many City & Guilds Conservation graduates in various institutions across London and the country, the course is particularly valuable as it has a good reputation and provides opportunities to meet and work with professional conservators”

 

Why did you chose conservation?

I had been working as an assistant frame restorer and gilder in my family restoration business for about five years, but I wanted to expand my knowledge of the field and give myself a broader and more informed view that would allow me to work more independently.

I believe Conservation as a subject is important to preserving culture and heritage for future generations, so that we can see how art changes and evolves over time. As conservation has developed we have discovered new materials and methods for working on objects that allows their history to be preserved without compromising their integrity and the nature of the work involved in creating them.

What did you appreciate most about the course?

One of the highlights of the course was to be given the means and opportunity to learn traditional carving techniques combined with modern material science, learning about the context of how they relate to each other.

Throughout the course you learn transferable skills and get practical hands-on tuition time with different materials, continuously learning new techniques. There were supervised and self-guided practical conservation projects working on a variety of objects. Some of my favourite and most memorable projects include; cleaning an antique flintlock pistol, reassembling a broken silver-gilt mirror and laser cleaning a plaster bust. Along with group and independent research projects that are also a key component; comparing consolidation mediums for gesso, cross-sectional microscopy, and the ethical process of restoring a public stately home post-fire.

I received a bursary in my final year, providing help to cover my tuition fees. It was the busiest time of the course for me, and this allowed me to concentrate on my thesis and dedicate myself fully to completing my practical work.

With many City & Guilds Conservation graduates in various institutions across London and the country, the course is particularly valuable as it has a good reputation and provides opportunities to meet and work with professional conservators.

What did you progress to do after graduation?

After graduating I was offered employment working for the Royal Collection Trust, cataloguing their picture frames. Through my degree I was supported in securing this job by having a practical understanding of the materials and techniques used in the objects creation as well as a sound knowledge to identify style and age, describe ornament and perform condition checks on the objects.

What do you do now?

I am currently Senior Furniture Conservator at the Wallace Collection in London, where I carried out and supervised thousands of object moves and treated well over a hundred objects. Whilst working at the Wallace Collection I have also had the opportunity to work for various other institutions and organisations in the UK and abroad. My main fields of expertise are sustainability, preventive & interventive conservation on furniture and wood related objects but in particular material and technique identification, gilding, urushi lacquer, metal mounts, marquetry and Boulle marquetry. I also frequently give lectures on these subjects worldwide.

What did you go on to do after graduation?

Immediately after graduating I worked for a conservation/restoration firm in Shropshire for some 18 months followed by several months work in Hungerford. I then moved back to London working for Plowden & Smith, where I worked for 3 and a half years. I started at the Wallace Collection in January 2004.

Is there a particular project or class you worked on while at the Art School that you still remember, or that proved useful for your career development?

All subjects taught at the Art School have been extremely useful in my career: gilding, carving, casting, material science, microscopy, live drawing, chemistry, practical work on objects, japanning, history of architecture, history of furniture… basically everything except from heraldry, even if at the time I won the Art School’s ‘Heraldry Prize’.

I also have a great memory of a six weeks workshop in Croatia. The project was set up by the University of Zagreb to help with the conservation of objects following the end of the war in Croatia. [The collaboration took place over two years between 1996 and 1997]

What do you think was the most valuable aspect of studying at City & Guilds of London Art School?

Everything, from the way the course was organised, the high level of practical projects intermixed with theoretical preparation, the buildings where the Art School is housed, the interaction with other students, the teachers, the atmosphere of the place.

 

About the image: 

Italian marble and gilded wood pier table from the Wallace Collection’s Great Gallery.

In 2013 Jurgen promoted a project joining together the Wallace Collection, City & Guilds of London Art School, Buckingham New University and West Dean College for the conservation of this monumental table and its ‘twin’. Read more about this project on the Wallace Collection’s website. The table was conserved at the Art school by final year student Hans Thompson.

 

What was your work/background before starting the course?

I started the Fine Art Painting BA at C&G after completing a Fine Art based Foundation course at Byam Shaw [School of Art, part of Central Saint Martins College of Arts and Design].

What attracted you to study at the art school?

I was looking for a course which focused on painting and I enjoyed the thought of starting with structured projects and moving on to self-directed working.  I also really liked the small, friendly, almost family feeling to the school; everyone was so welcoming when I came to look around.

What aspects of the course did you most enjoy and benefit from?

The range of tutors and the fact they were all practising artists with a huge range of specialities and knowledge was something I hadn’t seen on any other BA courses.  There were multiple tutors available each day so there was always something to have a tutorial with and bounce ideas off.

The themed projects with their specific arrangements in the first year allowed me to realise the importance of structured working, building images in stages, not being lured by colour, and ultimately that I loved to draw!

Twice weekly life drawing classes with two amazing tutors who always had time and patience, was an additional study that I continued throughout my time at the Art School which despite being distant from my studio practise greatly advanced my drawing.

Organising the Interim show in my second year was a great experience, showing me the other side to making art.

What have you been doing since graduating? What are you involved in now?

Since graduating in 2009 I have steadily built up my studio practise to a level at which I am able to support my studio in Deptford.  I have exhibited extensively in London and throughout the UK and Europe and have been selected for prestigious prizes including the Jerwood Drawing Prize, the Griffin Art Prize, the Threadneedle Prize and the National Open Art Competition.  I have also be award residencies from the Royal Society of British Artists at the esteemed British School in Rome and the Chateau de Blavou Residency in association with Forum des Arts in Normandy.

I am a founding member of The Arborealits, the formation of the group was inspired by the critically acclaimed and highly popular and successful Under the Greenwood – Picturing the British Tree double exhibition at St Barbe Museum and Art Gallery, November 2013.  The Arborealistsfounders were represented in the contemporary element of the exhibition which showcased 33 artists including 2 Royal Academicians and a Turner Prize shortlistee.  We have now had shows at the Royal West of England Academy, Gerald Moore Gallery and Mottisfont Abbey, in 2016 we are planning another in Poitiers, central France.

I am also the Event Director for the Propeller Foundry Open Studios.  In our second year over 80 artists opened their studios; I co-ordinated events ranging from a silent bid postcard auction, industrial heritage exhibit, family trail for younger visitors as well as all of the design and publicity.  We had 900 visitors over the weekend.

Would you recommend this course?

Absolutely.  It gave me a brilliant traditional grounding in fine art practise as well as the confidence in my own abilities to be able to succeed on graduating.

Why do you think fine art matters?

Art allows us all to escape to other worlds and to understand the one we inhabit with greater clarity.

 

 

What was your work/background before starting the course?

Before starting the course, I had started painting around the age of 15 and had my first solo show in London age 19.  I was studying languages and literature at UCL at the same time with a year of Design and Architecture in Italy in 2007 as part of an Erasmus programme. When I graduated in June 2009 from my BA at UCL, I took a year to travel and get to understand the various art scenes around world, and meet as many artists, scholars and art schools as possible. It was then that I applied for a masters at City and Guilds and was thrilled to be offered a place. During May and September 2010, I spent a month doing a Fine Art course at Parsons New York and another three months at the Slade School of Fine Art in London to complete the Summer School Foundation just before starting my Masters. It was during that summer that I turned to sculpture.

What attracted you to study at the Art School? 

The school was recommended to me by artists and friends I trust and respect. When I visited it, I was immediately drawn to it. Its a warm and welcoming place whose walls are filled with history. Its facilities – especially the old-school printing room – and the studio spaces felt unique. While students in other universities were complaining of “feeling like a number in a huge institution”, City and Guilds offered something a lot more intimate and therefore in-depth.

What aspects of the course did you most enjoy/ benefit from?

Being able to read and write about one’s own practice with the help of knowledgeable tutors is a luxury not to be overlooked. I particularly enjoyed the one-on-one sessions with my tutors, visiting tutors and my thesis supervisor. Evening talks, gallery visits and even our trip around  Germany were all greatly enriching.

If you received bursary support, could you say the difference this made? 

I was lucky enough to be offered a bursary from the Monegasque government in order for me to attend C&G. This meant I could do my masters full-time and therefore have a studio at school and dedicate myself 100% to it.

What are you involved in now/ what have you been doing since graduating? 

Straight after C&G I was awarded the Catlin Art Prize (Public vote), after being selected for the Catlin Guide 2011 which came as a result of my masters degree. I have been part of many interesting group shows and recently had my first solo show with Ronchini Gallery, who have now been representing me for the past two years.

Selected exhibitions include: ‘Home’ solo show at Ronchini Gallery (2014-15), ‘Articulate’ curated by Jeremy Lewison at Victoria Miro (2013), ‘The London Project’ curated by Gerson Zevi at Yorkshire Sculpture Park (2013), ‘The Uncanny’ curated by James Putnam at Ronchini Gallery (2013), ‘Dead Inside’ curated by Max Wolf and Meghan Carleton at Bleecker St Arts Club, New York (2013), ‘The Future Can Wait’ curated by Zavier Ellis at Victoria House (2013), ‘Dividing Line’ curated by Sumarria Lunn at High House Gallery (2012), ‘The Threadneedle Prize’ at the Mall Galleries (2012). Selected prizes include: Royal British Society of Sculptors Bursary Awards (2013), Fack! West London Art Prize (2013), The Catlin Art Prize (Visitor Prize Winner, 2012) and Arcadia Missa Gallery Prize (2011).

Would you recommend this course, and why?

I have already recommended it to many talented people who were looking for the right place to find themselves as artists. The Art School doesn’t put anyone in a mould, it aims to bring the best out of its students.

Why do you think Fine Art matters? 

It’s food for the incurably curious.

 

Can you provide a brief outline of your career following graduation?

In 2007 I launched the curatorial project THE FUTURE CAN WAIT which has run every year since during Frieze week and for the last four years in partnership with Saatchi’s New Sensations. In 2009 I launched my Shoreditch gallery space CHARLIE SMITH LONDON. In 2010 I re-launched my annual graduate show Young Gods, currently presented at my gallery and Winsor & Newton’s Griffin Gallery simultaneously. I have continued to make work and exhibit including at Museum der Moderne, Salzburg; Torrance Art Museum, Los Angeles; Klaipeda Culture Communication Centre, Klaipeda; and Paul Stolper, London.

What do you do now? 

I still combine running a gallery with curating and making work. All of these pursuits interrelate and feed into each other. I am currently working on THE FUTURE CAN WAIT Edition 9; running a continuous programme at CHARLIE SMITH LONDON; and making work for Galerie Heike Strelow, Frankfurt which will be shown next year in Frankfurt and Basel. My most recent project – called Black Paintings – is a good illustration of the interconnectedness of my projects. I launched it at Positions Berlin art fair in collaboration with Galerie Heike Strelow, showing both our gallery artists. I will curate a version soon ay my gallery. Heike and I will then collaborate again at London Art Fair, and then she will curate a version at her gallery next year which will include my own work.

Is there a particular project you worked on or class while at the Art School that you still remember/ that proved useful for your career development?

There are a few moments that resonate. Interestingly our first project was to present something historical and something contemporary that influenced our practice. Remembering back to studying Books of Hours during my art history degree, it was apparent that my interest in text had always been present, and this became a core component within my practice. I was asked to do ‘the lift test’: an imaginary situation where you find yourself in a lift with an influential collector, gallerist or curator, and you have a few moments to either say nothing and always regret it, or introduce yourself and communicate a precise explanation of yourself and your work in those few moments between floors, hoping to create an interest or dialogue. It was unforgettable, and it’s something I now advise all artists to have ready: a brief synopsis of one’s work where time is short and clarity essential.

What do you think was the most valuable aspect of studying at City & Guilds of London Art School?

Fundamentally its excellent teaching staff, but also small class sizes and the general ethic of the school.

Would you recommend studying at the Art School, and why?

Very much so. It’s very unusual to have such a committed, generous staff who are all active in their own careers. There is a wealth of knowledge and experience to tap into. And now that fees are required by almost all art colleges the playing field has levelled. City & Guilds Art School should be on the shortlist of all aspiring art students.

What was your work/ background before starting the course?

Prior to starting the MA course, I have studied visual arts at the Academy of Arts, University of Novi Sad, Serbia. The emphasis of my making was on drawing, while my interest lay in the human face.

What attracted you to study at the Art School?

I was seeking an environment that could facilitate my growth through critical and theoretical support, while also being respectful of the hand-made object – City & Guilds Art School felt like the right place.

What aspects of the course did you most enjoy/ benefit from?

I feel that the biggest contribution of the course to my practice was the encouragement to conduct a theoretical research revolving around my practice and its relating fields, and the consistent presence of a team of tutors channeling and expanding that research.

I was very fortunate to have received bursary support from the Art School that immensely contributed to the payment of my fees, and without which the MA course would not have been possible for me.

Can you describe projects you were involved in while studying at the Art School?

During the course I devoted my energy to two projects, one being the contextualization of my practice that culminated in dissertation writing, and the other being the exploration of the materiality of paint as a second skin sitting on top of canvas, realized through the creation of large and small scale paintings.

What are you involved in now/ what have you been doing since graduating?

It has been busy since graduating – I have had my works shown in exhibitions in Geneva, London and Vienna. One of the paintings that I created while studying at City & Guilds was exhibited at the National Portrait Gallery in London, as a part of the BP Portrait Exhibition, they then useed the painting to advertise the competition the following year. I have also taken part in one residency, in Charleston, US. A couple of my works have been housed in the Saatchi Collection, while my work and its process of making have been featured in a programme presented on CNN. I am currently working on an exciting collaboration with a City & Guilds alumnus.

Would you recommend this course, and why?

I would recommend the MA course, primarily because of the enormous and valuable attention given to each individual student enrolled in the School.

Why do you think Fine Art matters?

I cannot but quote my friend Stacie McCormick: ‘Fine art is not important, artists are because they are alive enough to make people perhaps for a moment feel the majesty of what it is to be alive.’

 

Rene is a Costa Rican artist who moved to London to study painting at the City & Guilds of London Art school. Winner of the 2015 Clyde & Co Blank Canvas Competition, Rene was commissioned by Clarks to create an artwork and show design for the Clarks Rebooted project in partnership with the Halo Trust (2014/15). He has shown his work in London, New York, Shanghai, Milan and Costa Rica.

What really stayed with you from your time at the Art School?

Perhaps one of the things I value most from my time at the Art School has to do with the tutors and the head of the painting department. Although always supportive, they will always press you to challenge yourself and take big risks, without really telling you what to do so as not to influence you. So that each individual can find their own way and answers to their practice, the students are reminded that there is no “one way” in art, but that doesn’t mean ‘anything goes’ either.

Being from Costa Rica, where art, culture and education are limited because of how small the country is, and its economic situation in general, it’s hard for me to pinpoint a specific area that the Art School was helpful for my career. What I mean by this is that, when I came to London, it was the first time I experienced firsthand the richness of British, and to a greater extent, European education and culture and I wanted to absorb as much as I could from the course. The Art History and Philosophy class, the tutors with their very different perspectives and approaches to art, the Art School trips to London Galleries, to Germany, Italy or river wading, or even the functionality of the staff and different workshops… these were all the product of a quality and standard that is rare and a privilege to experience at the global level, and they all played an important role in preparing me to be a competent artist and individual in a highly competitive platform as a painter. (continues below)

 

“The MA course was structured incredibly well, we were blitzed with information which was then cleverly filtered with help of the tutors to suit our individual needs […] I found the teaching to be supportive, kind and critical in equal measure and also well timed”

What was background before starting the course and what attracted you to study at the Art School? 

I had classical art training in Italy for four years, mainly as a portrait painter, and had attempted move away from portraits before starting MA.

I was attached first of all by the staff to pupil ratio and the style of teaching: I was at a pretty delicate moment in my art making and lots of attention and support was crucial.

What aspects of the course did you most enjoy and benefit from?

First of all the exposure to art and galleries that I had previously not known. The MA course was structured incredibly well, we were blitzed with information which was then cleverly filtered with help of the tutors to suit our individual needs. I was given confidence to carry out the ideas I had begun to cement and was questioned on the bad ones! The print room and tutors were excellent, I discovered etching which is something I continue to use in my practise a lot.

I had really dropped painting all together at that stage and so was making kinetic sculptures, photographs, drawings and etchings, all of which I was encouraged to do and made to understand the context within which I was making them.

I found the teaching to be supportive, kind and critical in equal measure and also well timed.

What have you been up to since graduation?

I have had a really exciting and full international career showing work all over the world, from New York, LA, South Korea, Italy, Berlin and London.

My work has been shown in cultural institutions and commercial galleries, and I had works purchased by important private and public collections (including New York Public Library, New York; Deutsche Bank Collection, London; The Library of Congress Collection, Washington D.C.). I have been curating shows in Berlin, and I am currently represented by Parafin gallery in London and Project gallery in Milan

Why do you think Fine Art matters?

For many reasons, but increasingly because a context of freedom and uniqueness is beginning to be found less and less.

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