Radius Exhibition at Ocean Studios

Our Journal

Meet the Academics - Rachel Darbourne

Rachel Darbourne teaches across our MA Jewellery and BA (Hons) Craft & Material Practices programme. We asked her about her own creative practice, living in Plymouth and how she discovered her fascination for materials.

Teaching across our MA Jewellery and BA (Hons) Craft & Material Practices programme, Rachel Darbourne is a practicing artist, researcher, project and conference organiser, educator and creative entrepreneur.

Exploring notions of value, including what we value and why we value it, through material investigation, subversion and market positioning, Rachel’s research interests include the psychological significance of transitional objects, emotional attachments, man's predisposition to violence, and subversion. We sat down with Rachel to talk to her about living and working in Plymouth and what makes Plymouth College of Art such an inspiring place to teach and learn.

How did you discover your passion?

At secondary school, during a chemistry class of all things, the teacher was talking about her daughter’s jewellery degree and knitting with wire. It struck me at that moment, that jewellery was not limited by material, it was a discipline, and the expanse and potential of that discipline was fascinating to me.

What made you want to go into teaching?

A number of years ago I was asked to come in as a lecturer for a couple of weeks. Prior to this it was not a career path I had considered, but after those two weeks, working with the staff who have become my colleagues and friends, and the students, I saw a role that would be both challenging and rewarding. I like to think that I am able to support the students in taking risks with their creative studies.

Little boy blue 2013

Little Boy Blue, Rachel Darbourne

I was fascinated by questions of what happens to this if I do this to it? I was the sort of child who put crisp packets into the oven to watch them shrink.
Rachel Darbourne, Lecturer in MA Jewellery and BA (Hons) Craft & Material Practices
Rhino 2020

Rhino, Rachel Darbourne

How does your teaching influence your practice and vice versa?

I am thorough in my approach to my creative and professional practice, I view these as separate but interwoven activities each informing and supporting the other. I try to share with the students the importance and value of rigorous engagement with their chosen discipline and the rewards that this can generate, both personally and professionally.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received as a creative?

The only way through fear is action. Not a statement one would normally associate with creative practice I know… Many years ago, I was procrastinating out loud, and this was the advice that came back. I have reinterpreted it now, it helps me with creative decision making, I used to be a slow, tentative maker, now I just get on with things. That does not mean to say I am not thoughtful when making work, I am, but there is a confidence and energy to my creative process that is embedded in action.

What advice would you give to a student starting out in crafts?

Take risks and explore materials, processes and ideas. Give yourself permission to make lots of mistakes because it is through error and failure that learning and creativity thrive. Being open minded and allowing yourself to feel challenged is vital. If you are feeling uncomfortable about your work or what is being suggested then there is a good possibility that you have strayed into new territory and this is exactly where you need to be.

You won’t find out who you are as a creative individual without taking risks.
Rachel Darbourne, Lecturer in MA Jewellery and BA (Hons) Craft & Material Practices
Rachel Darbourne necklace pearls and latex 2

Rachel Darbourne, Necklace, pearls and latex.

If you were visiting a university Open Day, what question do you think it would be most important to ask?

How easy is it for me to access and use your facilities?

The materials labs at Plymouth College of Art are exceptional and their proximity to each other and the ease in which one can move through them is quite unusual. The scope for cross-disciplinary practice is what sets the college apart; being able to take full advantage of these facilities in my self-directed study time would be vitally important to me if I was a student at the college.

What do you love about living in Plymouth?

Its size and the fact that the city has edges, I know this may sound strange. I spent the first thirty years of my life in Greater London with one area bleeding into the next. Plymouth, with the sea and the moors, creates, for me at least, a sense of expansive space. I never get bored walking the coast paths or on the moors. Being in these spaces allows contemplation.