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Our Journal

Meet the Academics: Craft & Material Practices

Our courses are led by real industry professionals, practising artists and invited experts whose knowledge will encourage your creative growth. We sat down with some of our craft academics to discover more about their personal practice and passions.

What materials inspire you? Glass, ceramics, metals? Wherever your practise takes you, our £8million open plan Craft, Design and Fabrication workshops encourage students to create and collaborate. Our courses are led by real industry professionals, practising artists and invited experts whose knowledge will encourage your creative growth. We sat down with some of our craft academics to discover more about their personal practice and passions.

Gayle Matthias is Programme Leader for our BA (Hons) Craft & Material Practices, a practising artist, educator and researcher. With permanent collections at the V&A, Musee de Vianne, Glazenhuis and Ebeltoft Museum of Glass she has worked with kiln-formed glass techniques for over twenty years. Over this time her work has become more mixed media, less concerned with technical process, and increasingly focused on the communication of ideas.

Can you explain a little about your personal practice and background as an artist?

My degree is in 3D Design: Glass. After graduating I worked as a studio assistant to several glass makers before acquiring my own studio. I like to bring found objects into my work such as broken sinks and combine them with car body parts and other items that I mould and reassemble. I am interested in anatomy and the wear and tear of the human body through labour and the effects of industrial environments such as coal mines, the pottery industry. I grew up in Stoke-on-Trent (The Potteries) so that is probably where my interest stems from.

How did you discover your passion?

I have always loved art in general, I was drawn to work with glass because it seemed so enigmatic and such an unusual material to explore ideas through. I enjoy becoming completely absorbed in making, it is such a wonderful experience that I keep returning to it, it is very life affirming.

What made you want to go into teaching?

I like the contrast between quiet contemplation in my own practice and discussing ideas and developing these with other people. Teaching really allows me to watch someone grow in their artistic practice, and as an individual, over a three year time period, it is quite transformational and a privilege to witness.

Copy of Gayle Matthias

Gayle Matthias

How does your teaching influence your practice and vice versa?

Making and researching help to keep my practice current and relevant, so that I can impart my knowledge to the students, but also students help me to grow as a communicator through both visual and verbal means. They also present new and exciting ways of working, so it’s a symbiotic relationship.

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

That there is nothing new in the world, just new combinations of old things.

What’s your favourite thing about Plymouth College of Art?

I am not sure that I can pick one! The workshops are fantastic, they are so spacious, there is loads of natural daylight and the glass facilities in particular cover all the bases. I also really love the friendly nature that a small college offers, it feels intimate, all the teaching staff know one another by name. You can work across programmes and collaborate with other staff and this feeds down into the student experience.

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

To find your passion, something that drives you, then you will want to work hard, to practice and practice and practice and to take risks that enable you to meet your goals.

Find out about Gayle and her work in more detail here

Noah Taylor is Technical Resource Manager for our Material Lab. Specialising in large-scale metal-work, he has consistently maintained his own practice which includes public art commissions and exhibits of both indoor and outdoor work. He brings a wealth of experience to our Materials Lab, encompassing the building and construction industry, a technical aid project in Zimbabwe, shop design and fitting in Germany and time as a metalwork consultant for Danny Lane Studios.

How did you discover your passion?

I "discovered" metals as a child growing up in the USA. Seeing welded junk sculptures and American Indian silversmiths at work. Also an inherent fascination with fire, heat and flames...that's never worn off…

Can you explain a little about your personal practice and background as an artist?

I did Fine Art Sculpture at art college, then studied blacksmithing for a year. After this I became self employed, making objects and doing domestic and business commissions. I also taught art history and sculpture at Cornwall College. These and other experiences have all contributed to my on-going personal practice, variety being the spice of life perhaps.

Noah Taylor

Noah Taylor

What made you want to go into teaching?

I seemed to naturally gravitate towards that through a combination of wanting to share knowledge and experience as I accumulated it.

How does your teaching influence your practice and vice versa?

Working with students and staff keeps conversations and ideas alive. Having to learn new skills and bodies of knowledge, such as art history, have inevitably broadened my horizons.

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

I'm not sure if it was ever spoken of as advice to me but, I would say, “be aware of other artist's never dimming creative passion”, has always ensured that I have kept going.

What’s your favourite thing about Plymouth College of Art?

Working with students and staff in what I consider to be a creative and therefore noble enterprise.

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

Learn as much as possible with all the opportunities you have access to. Work as hard as you can. You will grow and become skillful. All you learn will pay off in various ways for the rest of your life.

You can find out more about Noah and his work here

Dr. Kim Bagley is a Lecturer and MA Subject Tutor specialising in Ceramics. After studying to MA level at the University of KwaZulu-Natal she completed the first practice-led PhD in Ceramics at the University for the Creative Arts, Farnham. Alongside teaching and research, Kim has developed her own practice in sculptural and installation-based ceramics that explore and comment on social issues in South Africa and the UK.

Can you explain a little about your personal practice and background as an artist?

I'm an artist. I usually work with clay. I make work on a range of scales, from single objects to multipart site specific installations. I'm very influenced by my South African background, and what that brings to how I see the world. I like working with metaphors, especially those related to animals.

How did you discover your passion?

I took a compulsory ceramics module in the first semester of my first year at university on a broad visual arts course, and have never looked back!

How does your teaching influence your practice and vice versa?

I like to share materials and processes that I, myself, enjoy, with students. I like to experiment a bit in the studio mixing clay with other things and it's great fun to show students that. I'm also very interested in politics and social issues which come into my own practice and in how I get students to engage with what is going on outside of the art school. What's exciting is how that might be translated or reformed into an interesting practice by students.

Copy of Kim Bagley2

Dr Kim Bagley

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

Being a creative professional requires dedication and hard work, hang on, keep going, be tenacious and you will get to where you want to be.

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

I would say it's a question to ask yourself. Can you see yourself working in and enjoying this environment every day?

What’s your favourite thing about Plymouth College of Art?

The community. Plymouth College of Art is full of wonderful people with a shared purpose, and because it is a small place you get to know so many of the people in the community really well.

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

Try everything! Don't be held back by what you think you enjoy or don't enjoy right now. You have plenty of time to be a specialist later on. Being at art school is a chance to have a go at everything you can get your hands on. Live in the studios, try new things, especially if you are unsure about them. Go for it! You will surprise yourself.

You can find out more about Kim and what inspires her work here.

You can visit our world-class facilities in person at one of our Open Days, where you can experience our workshops, see demonstrations by our technical experts and meet our academic staff for one-to-one chats.