Fashion graduate Rowena Murphy has been elected as the 2018 Students’ Union President, thanks to her powerful campaign promoting the importance of mental health awareness in education.
We believe that high-quality education for life in contemporary arts practice is the creative catalyst for personal, professional and cultural transformation, and our manifesto includes ten propositions, written by our Principal, Professor Andrew Brewerton, that added to the themes of CREATIVE LEARNING and SOCIAL JUSTICE, define our strategic plans for the future. For our new campaign, we invited thirteen current students, recent graduates and alumni to contribute their own propositions.
BA (Hons) Fashion graduate Rowena wowed everyone with her bold knitwear collection at our Degree Shows earlier this year and helped us design a notebook for all our new students over the Summer. We caught up with her to find out more about her aspirations and her proposition, 'Mental Health Matters'.
Tell us about yourself...
I am a really creative person and my main passion at the moment is knitwear, that’s what I currently specialise in. My long-term aspiration is to set up my own knitwear business, ideally in Italy as it’s home to some of the biggest knitwear brands. It’s the place for inspiration, top-quality materials and a way to get your foot in the door. What better way to do it than to go there and immerse yourself.
Tell us a bit more about your practice.
When I started my degree I had my heart set on pattern cutting, but after three years I am all about knitting! I needed a bit of a push to be more creative and be a little crazy with my designs. My lecturers pushed me to go out of my comfort zone and now it’s something I really love doing. My work now incorporates a lot of textile elements, I’ve found I can apply these skills to interiors and homeware accessories which makes me a more versatile artist. But I always aim to start with my most ambitious ideas and then I can always tailor it back.
What does ‘Mental Health Matters’ mean to you?
One of my goals as Students’ Union President is to make the mental health support service that we provide as a college even more accessible. Lately there has been much more awareness of the intricacies involved in student’s mental health and it is really important to encourage people to speak about their experiences and feel reassured that we are there to help.
It’s so encouraging to see that everyone seems to be investigating their mental health a little more, but then we still have the opposing idea of ‘if you can’t see it so it doesn't exist’. So I think it is really important to show people that it does exist, and to make it possible for people to talk about it, that’s the first step to overcoming issues.
Are there any mental health campaigns that inspire you?
There is one that stood out to me, it highlighted mental health awareness in men and encouraged them to feel comfortable in admitting that they can suffer from mental health issues too. It had an impact and inspired me.
Why did you study at the college and what appealed to you about Plymouth?
Well I’m from the quiet seaside town of Weymouth, so Plymouth felt like a home away from home. I knew I wanted the city life, and the atmosphere within the college itself was amazing. Finding time to explore the city, taking a walk to the Hoe and unwind or just get outdoors, is so important. Everyone I’ve met in the city loves being by the sea, it’s great for inspiration and wellbeing.
Studies have shown that if people spend time in nature it helps with mental health, do you think that being by the sea ties in with that?
I do agree, wellbeing is something that is so vital right now. Finding time to do things like getting outside and immersing yourself in nature is important. Within the SU at Plymouth College of Art we want to do more trips and take people off campus and get them outside. This gives people the opportunity to experience new settings in which they can work, but also a chance to be inspired.
What does the PCA SU have to offer this year?
We want to ensure there’s a clear open door policy at the SU, allowing people to have a chat to us. Some people just need to let off some steam and don’t necessarily want or need counseling. Yet if we feel they need further support we can point them in the right direction.
Giving people an opportunity to talk somewhere where they’re completely comfortable, that's the main thing we are aiming to achieve this year.
What was the highlight for you of studying at Plymouth College of Art?
Being a student ambassador I was able to meet so many new people. I made a really good network of friends and I was able to try out everything on offer as access to different disciplines is so open.
What advice would you give to new students?
Don’t say no to anything, take every opportunity that comes your way. On top of that, you should make your own opportunities; interdisciplinary working is really important at Plymouth College of Art, so if you’re a fashion student who wants to try ceramics all you need to do is ask. I think that is the most important thing when you’re starting your studies.