Wednesday, Mar 22, 2017
by WonderStreet
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WonderStreet interviews Foundation Diploma in Art & Design student Elizabeth Acland

We recently had the chance to learn more about an intensive, diagnostic programme for artists at the Plymouth College of Art. This institution, located in Devon and founded in 1856, offers the standard bachelor programmes in different specialised concentration areas, and students can also pursue an MA degree on one of seventeen different tracks.

It’s the opportunity provided to students before they choose their concentration, however, that really makes Plymouth College of Art stand out. The UAL Foundation Diploma in Art & Design offered by the college is a 10-month programme that was created to allow students to explore a variety of disciplines, processes and materials before they begin their bachelor degree studies.

The programme follows a pre-determined structure, but allows the student to find his or her own creative path, balancing taught sessions and independent studio practice. The structure is broken down in to three stages: the first introduces the student to the various opportunities that are available at Plymouth College of Art and promotes experimentation across a variety of artistic media and methods. Stage two focuses on assisting the student to narrow down the field of interest and to select an appealing undergraduate programme. Finally, stage three is a self-initiated project in the chosen specialisation, which is showcased at the institution’s end-of-year summer exhibition.

The idea is to nurture both creativity and confidence, within a diverse and opportunity-rich environment. Plymouth College of Art grants students in the Foundation Diploma programme access to industry-standard workshops and technology resources, which can include a state-of-the-art Ceramics and Glass studio, printmaking and textiles workshops, 3D printing technology and the college’s Equipment Resource Centre with a wide range of photographic and digital tools.

European and international students are also welcome to apply. An additional pre-session English class is offered before the Foundation Diploma programme begins to offer extra support to students who score less than 6.0 on the IELTS exam. Students will have the chance to exhibit their work in London at the University of the Arts London (UAL) Origins exhibition and to promote themselves in one of the major European centres for art and design.

We were fortunate enough to speak to one of the talented students in the programme. Elizabeth Acland is 24-years-old, from Paignton, Devon, and is taking a UAL Foundation Diploma in Art and Design at Plymouth College of Art. Below, she tells us more about her experience thus far at the University and about her work.

Did you always know you wanted to study Art & Design?

Yes. Making and drawing have always played a significant role in my life. Until recently, I had primarily been creating illustrations and 3D textile work. I decided to take the Foundation to widen my skill set and experiment with different media.

Can you tell us a bit more about the Foundation Diploma and your experience with it?

The course is structured, but the focus is on experimentation and exploration, which allows students to approach projects with a lot of freedom. For me, this balance has been fantastic and I have learned much more than I expected to.

Would you recommend the Foundation Diploma to new students?

Definitely. I would say that you get out of it what you put in and that it is an great opportunity to challenge yourself, you preconceptions and your creativity without the pressure of committing to one discipline.

What is the most exciting project you have been working on recently?

White Shirt: exploring structural, non-structural and ephemeral elements. This is a multi media project, using textiles, photography, film and eventually installation. I am interested in the connections to work, conformity and uniformity that a shirt carries and contrasting these with intimate, delicate interpretations of the object. A lot of my work involves extrapolating shapes and forms from tiny details within an often overlooked place, object or idea and using them as a basis for development.

Why exactly did you choose a white shirt as the object?

I love the challenge of making something ugly or ordinary appear poetic, interesting or thought-provoking. I chose a white shirt as it is a universally recognizable object, making it interesting to present ambiguously.

What are the next steps for this project?

I am figuring out how to set up an installation presenting all of the elements as a dreamlike narrative experience. This will involve projecting my film onto textiles and installing photographs, as well as sculptural pieces.

Could you please share a few examples of your work and give us your thoughts about them?

These macro photos illustrate my attitude towards seeing. They were taken in a very rundown area, in which the most prominent colour is grey. I was determined to find some vivid colour among the deteriorated surfaces. This flaking paint and rust caught my eye. The intensity of the colours, once noticed, transforms the way that the area is perceived.

The vibrant colour of this photo really works for me. I am much bolder with colour when photographing than when drawing or painting. I would never mix these shades of green for myself, but fell in love with this stack of chairs and their irregular, rhythmic pattern.

What are your plans for after your graduation?

I will be starting a degree in Architecture, as well as aiming to promote my work in the digital sphere. I would love to work on some collaborative projects and start growing my creative network. It's going to be a very busy year - I can't wait!

And finally, do you have some advice for new students in Art and Design?

Don't rush into university, have conviction in what you do!

Thank you Elizabeth!

More examples of Elizabeth's work can also be found on her WonderSreet profile:

Individuals who are interested in learning more about the Foundation Diploma programme at Plymouth College of Art are encouraged to register for and attend an Open Day. At this event, prospective students have the opportunity to meet with current students and to receive advice about funding, accommodation and studying part-time. They are also guided on a tour of the facilities and can take part in subject talks and workshops. To register or to ask a question about the programme, please visit

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