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Media Partnership / It's Nice That x Show RCA 2014

Show RCA 2014: We speak to five alumni about grad show experiences

It’s starting to get serious now for the students at the Royal College of Art with the degree shows just six weeks away. In preparation for the openings, we decided to speak to some people who know all about the high-pressure environment of the RCA graduation exhibitions. So we asked five alumni about their memories of the shows, what they learned and to see if they had any words of wisdom for this year’s crop…

It’s Nice That is proud to be media partner for Show RCA 2014, which runs until 29 June at the Royal College of Art’s Battersea and Kensington campuses. For more information visit the dedicated website.

Duncan Fitzsimons, Innovation Design Engineering (2007)

Duncan-headshot

Duncan is the founder of the 17TH studio which provides innovative and inventive design solutions for clients like the BBC, Renault and AKQA. Last year the studio’s Morph Wheel won the transport category in the prestigious Designs of The Year awards.
www.17th-studio.com

How would you sum up the way the RCA influenced your practice?

Completely. It taught me how to communicate with people from a whole range of different backgrounds and areas of expertise, plus it taught me how to see design as something that other people experience. It also taught me that I could do all sorts of things I never knew I was capable of, because it put me in situations where I had no choice but to just run with it!

What are your memories of your degree show, both the preparation and the actual event?

I don’t have many memories of the immediate lead-up, instead just a big memory of spending four months preparing for one crucial moment and focussing completely on this until it was done.

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What was the biggest challenge you faced putting your final work together?

The biggest challenge was looking beyond just the design I was creating, and having to also consider how it would be perceived by, and communicated to the public. I think I realised quite late in the process that even if I made my design perfect, just putting it in the show wasn’t quite enough. I needed to explain to passers-by what it meant and what it could do and quickly, because people often don’t look at your work for long! In the end I stood by my work all day, every day in the show to tell people about it.

What advice would you give to those students who are working towards their degree shows at the moment?

Stop for a moment and think how to present your work in a way that instantly grabs people who visit the show. If you suddenly showed your work to a person on the street for five seconds, would they be as impressed as you want them to be? 

Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg, Design Interactions (2009)

Daisy

Alexandra is a designer, artist and writer who is interested in “developing experimental design approaches to help us imagine alternative ideals around technology.” In 2013 she returned to the RCA for a PhD by practice focused on creating a better future.
www.daisyginsberg.com

How would you sum up the way the RCA influenced your practice?

Design Interactions opened up a completely new way of working for me, new ways to think about design, and a whole new subject area. My first degree was in architecture, my MA transformed my practice: today I’m researching design itself, by investigating emerging technologies.

What are your memories of your degree show, both the preparation and the actual event?

While it was enormously hard work, it made me think through making and made me learn new skills to make my final pieces, like how to turn MRI data into a gold-plated colon…

What was the biggest challenge you faced putting your final work together?

Learning how to translate complex research into design objects that can tell stories, and understanding how those objects then operate in the world independently of you. I’m continuing to explore this. 

What advice would you give to those students who are working towards their degree shows at the moment?

Enjoy the process: polishing my resin kidneys in the June sunshine is a memory for life!

Donna Wilson, Textiles (2003)

Donna-wilson-with-puddle-man

Donna Wilson is a textile designer whose weird and wonderful knitted creatures sold out at her degree show. Her work has appeared in shows at Somerset House and The Yorkshire Sculpture Park.
www.donnawilson.com

How would you sum up the way the RCA influenced your practice?

Being at the RCA was like being in a creative bubble for two years. At the time nothing else mattered, and I was really inspired by the tutors and other students. It gave me the time and the space to develop my work into what is now my career- I started making dolls and creatures while I was there. I also wanted to collaborate with other students from other disciplines on different projects, and the RCA was the environment to do this, as well as helping me gain the confidence to get my work out there.

What are your memories of your degree show, both the preparation and the actual event?

There was a big push to get everything done and everyone wanted it to be fantastic; we worked crazy hours and there was a real buzz. I remember feeling like I was ready for the future, but a bit sad that it was all over. When the show opened, we all had high hopes of being picked up by a fantastic employer, and for some that happened, for others it was the first real exposure for their work, and that in itself was a great learning experience.

What was the biggest challenge you faced putting your final work together?

I think we all put ourselves under a huge amount of pressure, but I think that’s healthy. Now in the real world you face challenges like this a lot and use the skills learned back then to get it all done in time.

What advice would you give to those students who are working towards their degree shows at the moment?

Plan your time, and allow extra time for things going wrong! Be open to things changing; sometimes things don’t turn put as you expect, sometimes they turn out better. And you might not get an amazing job offer right there and then, but use the experience of showing your work, speak to as many people as you can, listen to their feedback, and remember you are selling yourself as a creative thinker as well as your work.

Manifold, Ceramics & Glass (2010)

Manifold

On leaving the RCA four years ago, nine graduates set up Manifold “a collective, collaborative and cooperative space” which shares knowledge, equipment and costs. Zachary Eastwood Bloom answered our questions.
www.studiomanifold.org

How would you sum up the way the RCA influenced your practice?

Meeting people and forming a strong creative network has been a huge benefit and pleasure. The teaching at the RCA forced me to think more critically and also gave me confidence in my own work and abilities. I worked so hard but had such a good time doing it.

What are your memories of your degree show, both the preparation and the actual event?

We were very lucky to exhibit that year in the Henry Moore gallery at the RCA which is in a prime space in Kensington. Having more space to show our work made the whole show look great overall. Our year worked together really well too; one team did show design, another the catalogue design and others got sponsorship and booze! This gave us confidence in setting up together post-RCA as we knew we collectively had the skills to cover most bases.

At the show I remember being there all the time, talking to as many people as possible and getting as many email addresses as I could. It was such a great spring board for a career as an artist.

What was the biggest challenge you faced putting your final work together?

The same thing it is with every show; time and money. I spent so much money investing in my work that I had to up my overdraft to pay for it all; it was quite a risk. It was a risk that paid off however as I sold a few pieces and got a couple of shows out of it too.

What advice would you give to those students who are working towards their degree shows at the moment?

Be confident and talk about your work to as many people as possible. If you believe in your work and talk to people about it, then they will believe in your work too. You never know, they could be collectors, gallery owners, curators or just people that like your pieces, and you can never have enough of those.

Sarah Angold, Textiles (2008)

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Sarah Angold runs an east London-based studio which specialises in jewellery and lighting. Inspired by “graphic shapes, mathematical structures and industrial processes,” her work has been snapped up by clients like Selfridges, Toyota and Seymourpowell.
www.sarahangold.com

How would you sum up the way the RCA influenced your practice?

The RCA taught me to follow my design instincts unwaveringly, and give up my vision for no one.

What are your memories of your degree show, both the preparation and the actual event?

I was too sleep-deprived to remember the preparation. My favourite part of the show itself was seeing everyone else’s work, and understanding that behind the seamless presentation were weeks of devotion, angst, deliberation and tears. Here was the talent of the future and it was such a privilege to be part of it.

What was the biggest challenge you faced putting your final work together?

That I was the only person who was confident that my final design would succeed. To be fair it wasn’t until the early hours of the morning of the degree show that there was any physical proof that it would…  

What advice would you give to those students who are working towards their degree shows at the moment?

Stick to your guns. 

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