Louise Emily Thomas
BA (Hons) Fine Art 2009
Artist / Sculptor Tutor
Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your background?
I grew up in the sunny fields of Wiltshire where I completed an Art Foundation course, I’ve always been hard to pigeon hole into a specific artistic discipline, so Fine Art on the contrary was the nearest maverick area university had to offer.
Post university, I’ve worked at PSL Leeds, Red Pepper magazine as a picture researcher (both of which I started out as a volunteer), as a Personal Assistant and have had various part-time positions in pubs and cafes. Art wise I received the Step Beyond Mobility Grant for an art residency in Turkey, exhibited in London, successfully applied for an MA to study Anthropology at Goldsmiths and UCL but instead I chose to be the recipient of a bursary to study Figurative Sculpture at Heatherley’s School of Fine Art in Chelsea.
What made you choose to study Fine Art / History of Art / Cultural Studies? And why did you choose Leeds?
It was a moment of spontaneity; I was previously at Liverpool John Moores for a week, but decided to find greener pastures, as it didn’t feel right. I stayed with a friend who had just started at Leeds University she took me to Leeds market and around the campus. I fell in love with the grandeur of the university architecture, and felt that an art course within a larger institution suited my curiosity for other fields of learning and in gaining inspiration for my practice.
What are you fondest memories of your time at Leeds?
Most certainly the people, the community and friends made, who are all still by my side 8 years down the line. Completely indulging my mind in the theories of the world during my dissertation, very much playing in a dream world inside and outside the campus.
Where do you currently work and what is your job title?
I currently work as an Artist in the studio I live at in London, as a Sculptor Tutor at Heatherley’s School of Fine Art where I previously trained in figurative sculpture and as an Art Technician at Richmond Adult Community College in West London.
Can you tell us about your day-to-day role?
As an artist, I work on self-directed projects in the studio including animation, puppetry and sculptures. This requires self-motivation and discipline, budgeting of personal income, perseverance to see things through and consistent lateral thinking when you may not necessarily have the right tools or space. A recent lesson learnt is – always remember to measure doorways when creating something bigger than expected! However, the magic of art is that you can make the role up.
As a sculptor tutor, I use my own art educational background to relate and respond to each student’s work and attitude, encouraging lateral thinking and, by critical analysis of my own practice, I can educate with conviction and assurance on a discipline, which is hard to objectify.
As an Art Technician I work across the areas of ceramics, wood, crafts and Fine Art; packing kilns, mixing glazes, fixing machines, giving advice to students, carrying out demonstrations and inductions; it’s a highly practical job and requires a lot of physical energy.
How do you think your degree has helped you in your career? In particular, what skills did you learn and how do you use these in your job?
The lessons learnt in self-directed study have been integral to the life of an artist, making your own deadlines, without a doubt is crucial to getting things done. The degree taught for clarity of mind and progressive thinking, encouraging confidence in bold ideas, having conviction and ambition, all of which will continually push you onto the next stage. The departments contextual focus on post-colonial critique, West African masquerade and sculpture have had a larger impact on my life than I realised at the time. In hindsight, the experience and knowledge gained at university stays with you at a subconscious level, yet plays an integral part in how you view and act in the world. Advice, you may be given at the time may take years to sink in, but always listen!
How would you sum up your time at Leeds?
Rolling around in a giant book with bits of wood and lots of friends.
What are your plans for the future?
My current plans are to create an experimental animation on the mining industry in Guatemala, apply for funding to travel to Mongolia with the wild camel masquerade I recently created for a charity, prepare for a 2 man show in London in the new year, apply for a practice-led PHD in Fine Art, gain experience in the theatre industry and continue to teach in creative education.