Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Mature student? Me? Hardly likely.

Implausible as this might sound - I just started a B.A. at Art School. Yes really.

Little by little making and creating had become a big part of my life and last summer between jobs my dear friends (ratsasbigascats and Borderline Straggler) sent me an email that changed my life. I clicked on a link, I filled in a form and I then went to an open day. Being told that I was too old for a Foundation course was a bit of a shocker - but they just take them that are fresh from school. At the open day I met the Tutor of the 'Access to Art and Design' course, he interviewed me (looking at my flickr account on my phone to see my work!) and I was accepted there and then! Days later - and it was only that - I started the course... and a year on and here I am in a new city starting Uni life!

'Access to Art and Design' at the City of Oxford College is less than three days a week in college and then self-directed learning at home. I was excited to try a range of new techniques, improve my skills and my thinking but I had no intention whatsoever of going to University (despite that being part of the course). I hoped that I would simply come out as a more skilled maker with greater range. I was scared though. I had been an habitual truant towards the end of my time as school. I'd coast through  leaving things to the last minute, failing to finish work and then ostriching my way out of it, totally letting myself down. Bad girl? Hardly... it was an awfully nice school though and so that is how I was perceived. I therefore approached the Access course thinking that as some point I was likely going to screw up, or life would get in the way or... or... or...

What I failed to appreciate fully was that yes - once I was a flakey kid - but since then I have done numerous jobs and learned a tonne - usually against a real deadline. I'm ruddy good at that stuff too. So I applied some of those lessons in college.

1) Use a sensible file structure. Batch things by project and topic.
Doing it as you go and of course backing up - these things you learn by losing work.

2) Don't do your printing at home - it's expensive! 
Friends will often print your stuff at their work. Make it easy for them by batching up your images into a folder and then simply turning them into a photo album using PowerPoint.

3) If you're not sure what you're being asked to do just have a crack at it early on and show your progress to the person who gave you the task. They will steer you then.

4) Technology will always fail you if you leave those things until the last minute.
Leave the low tech stuff until last if you must leave something.

5) Take notes. Memories are unreliable. Notes are better. They serve as evidence too if someone else's memory is at fault.

6) Pictures keep one's attention better than words. Here's one I wish that all Academics would learn.
Take photos. I think in images more than words, so notes next to pictures works for me. Pages and pages of notes... death. Pictures my brain can't help but to process.

7) Learn how to use the photocopiers until you could just about service them.
Some stuff is quicker to do on a copier than a computer if you know what you're doing... and you can get some interesting results too.
There's never a queue when the copier is broken, and if you can quickly remedy it then you're at the front of the queue.

8) Some people are really working - and having a bad day - so be nice.
The people teaching are at work. I get that. I've been there. 'Thank you' can be just what you need, a sincere smile and a bit of light chat can do the world of good.

9) Talk to people at break times - call it building networks or making friends. It's not time wasted.

10) Get first thoughts down on paper and keep referring to it. Brainstorm as lists or mind maps whatever early ideas and direction can be lost mid project, when poorly or when life gets in the way.

11) Do the thing that you're rubbish at first. It's so much worse when that's the bit you're doing against a time pressure. e.g. for me painting - it's just not my thing... but sewing I will always make time for and it doesn't feel like a chore even under pressure. Sometimes the thing you hate doing turns out alright too - double yay.

I wasn't the oldest but nor was I the youngest. I wasn't the most talented nor the least. I don't even think I was trying hardest... but you know what... I loved it and when it came to the results I was top of my class!

My sketchbooks were much admired - not because my drawings were special but everything was in there! Lots of pictures. Lots of stuff.

Now I'm an undergraduate Fashion and Textile Design student and if it weren't for my Access course a) I wouldn't have considered this, even in my wildest dreams b) I wouldn't have the confidence and skills to be enjoying as much as I am... but the rest is on me. I cannot recommend it enough.

I could hardly believe it was happening - so I waited to share this until I had started - but it really is and I'm so grateful.



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