Course studied: BA (Hons) Decorative Arts
Doing the decorative arts course and being with NTU contributed so much to where I am now. When you do decorative arts, it’s like being given a toolkit for life after graduation.
More about Anna Collette
Anna is now a Nottingham-based artist running her own successful business. Alongside studio collections, Anna is also known for her large-scale installation body of work called Stirring the Swarm, which was unveiled at Nottingham Castle in 2012, and continues to be both nationally and internationally exhibited.
Why did you choose to come to NTU?
“I knew that I liked to make things, that was always something that was important to me. However, I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to make, so I was looking for a multi-disciplinary course in craft. I looked at all of the courses that were available, and NTU was by far the best; the course content seemed the most sophisticated, and I was really impressed by the facilities when I visited so it was an easy choice.”
What did you enjoy most about your course?
“That’s a hard question because the course content was really well thought out and it just worked for how I function; working on different projects, different briefs, trying so many different materials, techniques, processes; it never got stagnant.
“On top of that, we had the most fantastic studio environment - that was probably the best part for me, just to be in that lovely space together. We were sort of like a family, and by the end of the three years, we just bonded. These are people I’m still in touch with now, eight years later.”
What was your favourite experience at NTU?
“We had a Venice study trip in our second year; it was a nice way to get to know the other people on the course. Also going to London for New Designers in our final year was a wonderful experience. Putting the Degree Show together was just full on and very fun, and you just bonded so much with your peers.”
What did you think of the facilities available to you as a student?
“The facilities were a really attractive part of the course. You try so many different materials and processes and they have really good facilities in each of those areas, and also great technicians who really knew their stuff.”
What did you do initially after you graduated?
“The first thing I did was to join the HIVE, the Business School attached to NTU. I went on one of their intensive courses to polish my business plan a little and learn a bit more about running a business. Alongside that, I was working towards a solo show at Nottingham Castle that I managed to secure with my Degree Show collection. I had to hit the ground running, there was no time for dawdling after graduation!”
How did NTU help you get to where you are today?
“Doing the decorative arts course and being with NTU contributed so much to where I am now. Throughout the course, we picked up so many different skills that could be translated into so many other areas. I came out as a very strong creative person, but I was able to put that creativity into anything I do; business planning, marketing, promoting myself and so on. I built up my confidence to start my own business.”
Why did you choose to stay in Nottingham after you graduated?
“Over the three years, I made a lot of contacts through my different projects and briefs. I felt like it would be a waste to move away and start all over again. I felt like I could make more of an impression here because I had a network, and leads to follow on that I’d set up before I graduated. It just made sense to try and make my mark on this area!”
What are thoughts on the creative industry and the broad amount of opportunities available to our decorative arts students?
“When you do decorative arts, it’s like being given a toolkit for life after graduation. You become a really strong creative practitioner, so you can go into any area in the creative arts or crafts, but you also have a background from working in different areas. I can do ceramics, glass making, illustration, speaking at events, and more.
"You have a whole toolkit that can take you down so many different paths. The more academic part of the course, including the business topics, taught me how to run my own business, how to market and promote myself, make websites and more. All of those skills can set you on a path for any career. I find all decorative arts students can work quite laterally across different careers, different medias, and so on!”
Did you always know that you wanted to start up your own business?
“No, it was a bit of a surprise that I became a business owner. I just liked to make things, that’s the only path I set out on really, so it was a bit of a surprise when I had to sell my work and become a business person. The course helped me down that path because we got the coaching and tuition to support me in getting there, and I think I’m doing really well in it now!”
What made you want to specialise in ceramics?
“I’ve always loved ceramics. I first tried it in my art foundation course and left it after that. It was only after coming to NTU and trying all the facilities, all the different clays that I was really captivated by it! It was really assuring that I can do glass making, wood, illustration, print making, and more. You work from project to project in different areas using different medias, so you just pick up all of these skills.”
What do you hope the future will bring for you?
“I hope that my business will continue to evolve, that’s the most exciting part for me – making new work, and not knowing exactly where you’re going to be heading. It’s lovely to have surprises in the future because that’s how I operate; I’m not always sure what’s going to be happening in the next year. People get in touch with the most amazing projects that I can get involved with, so I love the surprises and the evolution of ideas and work.”
What are the top 3 tips that you have for our decorative arts students for a successful career?
“Make the most of all the facilities at NTU because you’re going to miss them so much when they’re gone! Try everything! Even if you don’t fancy it, give it a go because you never know what’s going to happen or what process you’ll discover.
“Enjoy mistakes – sometimes things do go wrong, sometimes your work fails, but you always learn something from it. Sometimes those happy accidents are really strong points that can really help you along the way. Even if you feel like you’ve made a mistake or things haven’t worked out successfully, don’t write it off, just use it and learn from it.
“Be very organised – as soon as you graduate, be ready to trade. You could open your shop the next day. In that little window from graduation to new graduate, it’s very competitive. The more opportunities you can put into place so you’re ready to hit the ground running, the better!”