Life After Art School

I am currently writing this in the living room of my flat on a very dim August evening. There are a few candles flickering on the mantelpiece and incense burning on the windowsill. Outside there is a quiet downpour of rain. A pretty picturesque scene and perfect time to do some reflective writing.

It has been approximately a year since I left university and started work. It genuinely doesn’t even seem like a year since I left because the time has gone so fast. I was a student for five years and it was part of my identity. But to be honest, the only thing I truly miss about being a student is the discounts – oh and the student Union food.

So what have I been up to? When I last wrote a blog post, I was just about to start my new job as a freelance designer in the new V&A museum in Dundee. That was almost exactly a year ago.

Since then I have run well over 50 workshops and tours spanning the range of many design disciplines. These have included everything from illustration and architecture to product design and video game design. I have worked with so many different groups – children aged 5 – 18, community groups, families and professionals. I have had the pleasure of working with some wonderful children who have brightened my day and sometimes changed my outlook on life. It has been such an absolute honour to be able to do this work in the very first year of the museum opening, it makes me feel as if I am really part of something special for Dundee.

As a freelancer I have also continued my work and research around people living with dementia and I am currently helping to implement dementia inclusion at V&A Dundee. I had the wonderful opportunity to travel down to Bath to attend a conference and further my research on dementia workshops as well as writing a report, which was an incredible experience. I have taken our museum handling box out to various care homes and delivered workshops to the local community. I have also continued my personal volunteering work in local care homes (coming up to four years now) and completed online courses to further my research on the subject. It is something I can’t wait to continue in the year to come.

As well as the freelancing work, I have a job as a visitor assistant at V&A Dundee which keeps me busy on the days I’m not freelancing/volunteering/in the studio. This job also gives me the opportunity to deliver tours to different groups. I think the part I like about this job most is the people. And not just the people I work with (who are all insanely lovely) but also the people I meet. I never get tired of hearing that someone has travelled from the other side of the world just to visit Dundee!

All of that hasn’t really left a whole lot of time for art. It wasn’t until about six months had passed that I even felt the desire to create something again. I definitely experienced what many students would call ‘burnout’. The constant process of research/writing/making/grading/repeat for five solid years really wore me out and for a while I was pleased that I wasn’t having to look at art, never mind make it. I was so happy to have the freelance work as something I could use my art skills in but that gave me space to breathe and take a break from artistic creation.

I’m glad to say the desire to create art has since returned in full force. I have my own little studio set up in the spare room of my flat now and I’ve actually gone back to oil painting again. I’ve been rediscovering my love for using palette knives and brushes and it feels so magical to be able to create without having to look at a learning outcome or grading sheet before I start.

I can’t wait to see what happens in the coming year… watch this space!

New Studio



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