I chose HCA because I liked the idea of a small, dedicated art school that wasn’t too big and scary and everyone seemed to know what they were doing and what they were on about. I did get offers from other universities that I thought I was going to go to, but ended up really seeing myself thrive in Hereford and at HCA.
Whilst I was doing my BTEC in Art and Design, I came to realise how I love creating images. I thought of illustration as a trade, a way of creating imagery with purpose. I liked the idea that images can tell stories and convey things words may not necessarily be able to.
Top 4 pieces of advice I would give to people choosing their degree:
1. Don’t narrow down your options too early – really think about what you want to get out of your experience.
2. Go to Open Days! They are such a useful way of visiting the place you might spend the next three years of your life!
3. Make sure you’re making your own decision and not studying something/somewhere you won’t feel comfortable and thrive.
4. Don’t feel pressured into going to a well-renowned university solely based on their reputation – if you’re not happy somewhere, you won’t be able to get the best out of your experience so go somewhere you feel you will.
I currently work as a bookseller in a really cool little independent bookshop, which I love because I get to have first dibs on the lovely illustrated books that come out and I’ve learnt so much about the publishing industry which is fascinating to me! I’ve also recently worked on illustrating some poetry by Paul Henry and creating window displays for some awesome shops, like Natural Weigh in Crickhowell, which is Wales’ first zero waste shop, and I genuinely love doing it! I’ve also been making prints and some illustrated merchandise for my Etsy shop.
The most important lessons I learned while studying at HCA:
- It’s important to find your own projects, or at least tailor projects to suit you. Your biggest asset is that there is no-one else on this planet who is identical to you. Your life, the way you see things, the way you think, the way you draw is totally unique. Embrace that and make sure you find a way to enjoy your projects and make them personal. Some may, at first, seem restricting and uninteresting but you’ve got to find your angle. If you enjoy it, you will create better work.
- It’s also important to make the most of the facilities and workshops! HCA has amazing workshops for ceramics, metalwork, woodwork, 3D-printing, screen printing and so much more, and it’s worth making the most of them before you leave! Expand your practice.
- Budget, especially so you can go on trips. My visits to Paris, Berlin and Amsterdam with HCA were amazing, and I felt I got so much out of them, but also the little trips to London and Birmingham were so inspiring and definitely worth getting involved in!
- Don’t expect everything you make to be perfect. It took me far too long to realise this, but you can’t worry about creating something that’s not perfect because you’ll never create anything. That’s why I think having a sketchbook that’s just for you is great for getting into the habit of just drawing, painting, collaging, writing without the pressure of making something that’s worthy of being shown. You will make something great. Just don’t be afraid to make something crap first.
I met some amazing people at HCA and made some good memories with them (a few include Games Nights at AJs and film nights in the Queen’s Building) but also, going to Glug Brum, visiting the House of Illustration when Laura Carlin’s ceramic exhibition was there, Paris, Berlin, Amsterdam, and of course New Designers and Graduation Day.
5 bits of advice I would give to students graduating from HCA this summer:
1. Make the most of your extra time! Set yourself projects, make work you want to make because now’s the time!
2. Try not to get sucked into working a job you don’t enjoy and forget to set aside the time for creating things.
3. Try and find your own space to work in, whether it’s a rented studio or a corner of a room in your parent’s house, it’s important to have a space you can “go to work” at.
4. Again, make sure you go outside sometimes.
5. Stay happy and stay creative!
At HCA, I loved the balance of guidance and creative freedom. I loved that everyone in the building was a creative person. I loved that we had our own spaces to work in. I loved that I met some amazing friends. I loved that I got to meet inspiring creatives and go to inspiring places, but most importantly; I love that I gained so much creative confidence through being at HCA and learnt so much about myself and about my industry.
My biggest achievements during my time at HCA was probably gaining the confidence to believe I might, one day, be able to make a living doing something that makes me genuinely happy. I also got to speak in front of a bunch of second-years about my dissertation, and create a summer show project I was proud of!
Since I left, I’ve gained a few contacts in the publishing industry and amassed a huge collection of lovely books – it’s all research, right? I’m looking forward to seeing what the future holds!