Alumni Stories - Laura Quinn
'Work hard, put the hours in, every time. You can’t rush creativity, but you have to work hard to create work that is meaningful.'
Name: Laura Quinn
Current Career (Field): Glass Technical Tutor at University for the Creative Arts, UK designer, maker and business owner at Laura Quinn Design.
Graduation Year: 2015.
Discipline(s): Joint BA (Hons) in Art and Design History & Craft Design (Glass).
Location (Living): Farnham, Surrey, UK.
What career path did you want to follow as a child?
As a child I was artistic, but also very interested in science. Like most children, what I wanted to be when I grew up changed over the years. I dreamt of being an architect at one point, an engineer at another. The common overarching theme is that I wanted to create, make things work, and make things that work for people.
Why did you decide to study at National College of Art & Design?
NCAD was put on my radar by my school mate in art class when I was in the senior cycle of secondary school. I visited the college during my final year for their open day. The vibrancy of the students matched the vibrancy of the building they created work in. The moment I knew I wanted to study there was when I saw a final year installation at the NCAD graduate show. It was a large cardboard tube poking out of the ceiling in one of the studio-turn galleries. With the little room under the tube I crouched under and looked up to be bombarded with a light and four heads bellowing ‘AHHHHH’ in a Gregorian-like chant. My attention was firmly held on NCAD and the possibilities for creative expression it could allow.
How did you develop your career towards your current job / practice?
I finished my BA degree in NCAD in 2015. From there, I worked for two years in the field, working as a glass making teacher in the Corning Museum of Glass in New York, as a glass blower in Estonia and then I came to England to work as a glass blower for a small company in Gloucestershire. I decided to return to education to complete my master’s degree in Plymouth College of Art.
Whilst studying there, and for a few months after graduating I was employed by the college to teach glass making one day a week. My path to this point has been to develop my own practice and skills for my own business, and to become more competent at digital design to include it in my work. I also wanted to continue my professional development so a career in glass education was possible.
In 2020, I started employment as the Glass Technical Tutor in The University for the Creative Arts in Farnham in the UK. This role allows me to teach the craft, which I am passionate about, but it also supports my own practice by giving me access to equipment and being part of an exciting, creative community.
What is the one experience during your time at NCAD that has informed you most in your career / work to date?
My time in NCAD has informed my work to date so much. There’s one particular lesson I learned in my time there that stands out, and that I continually draw back from in my practice. Whilst studying in the glass department, Dr. Caroline Madden always reminded us to use our sketchbooks to design to our full creative potential, instead of to the technical skill set we had at the time. This has meant that I have been able to return to my designs years later and am able to realise them through either the skill set I have developed since or through digital design methods. For example, in the Balance Neck Piece which I first designed in 2015, and finally realised in 2019 - once I had a solution for the connection method that had been unresolved for years. The resolved design included a 3D printed ball and socket joint to bring together the two glass pieces, it was the correct finishing to a design that began years previous. This design was shortlisted for the Design and Crafts Council Ireland Future Makers Awards in 2019, and went on to be shown and sold at the prestigious Crafts Council’s Collect international design and craft fair in London in 2020.
If you were chatting with current NCAD students today what is the one piece of advice you would offer?
Lean into the uncomfortable. At first when establishing your creative practice, you must trust in this process, especially the uncomfortable stage when you don’t know where it is going, or what the outcome, if any, will be. You must stretch, and be uncomfortable in order to grow. This uncomfortable stage will continue when you are an established practitioner. Your tutors and academics are helping you to build the tools and paths to find your way through the uncertainty so that you can trust yourself and the creative process. Work hard, put the hours in, every time. You can’t rush creativity, but you have to work hard to create work that is meaningful.
Given the global turmoil and change accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic, what in your opinion are the opportunities for those in creative industries?
It has been an extremely difficult time for the creative industries, but as a community we are resilient, coming through a recession in recent years to thrive. I hope that the same can happen again.
From my experience so far, the global pandemic and turn towards online events has given opportunities to meet and make connections with creatives from across the world. Personally, I have found a market and an audience who has a great interest in supporting my small creative business, even through these uncertain times.
I have also had more time to focus on the parts of my practice which sometimes fall to the wayside like my website and applications for funding and to awards.
This year. I was honoured to win an award from the Design and Crafts Council Ireland’s Future Makers Awards after writing an ambitious proposal for a project which will encourage the audience to reconsider the perceived restraints of glass and push the boundaries of the material. Perhaps as a silver lining the pandemic has given us all a time to stop, pause the flow of orders and constant work to reconsider our practices, invest in new processes or equipment, or make steps towards making our practices more sustainable.
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