Case Study : Ashley Davies
Ashley completed his A Levels at Neath Port Talbot College in Fine Art, Graphics and Welsh in 2009
Ashley in his own words...
Art & Design - Neath Port Talbot College
To my sixteen year old self - a relatively introvert pupil of Llangatwg Comprehensive - the thought of starting College and Uni was daunting. I enrolled at Neath Port Talbot College with a very vague idea of what architecture - an interest of mine since school - entailed and what to study at A-level.
Fine Art & Graphic Design revealed a responsibility I hadn't encountered in school – it wasn't just a case of making 'nice stuff.' I was pressed to contextualise my work and bolster it with critical writing, recognising reputable sources of research, while developing a higher-level of skills and concepts, drawing on Art & Design history and modern practices.
And despite some harsh speculation that my Welsh A-level would become redundant when I left College, it couldn't have been further from the truth.
Art & Design Foundation Course- Swansea
After gaining 3 A's at A-Level, I went on to study a Foundation Diploma in Art & Design at Swansea Metropolitan University in September 2009. Welsh was more popular than I'd imagined. It offered me a blank canvas in a way; it provided a new name for everything, renewing a child-like inquisitiveness that is so fundamental to innovation, creativity and design.
Foundation was a really positive experience for so many reasons – NPTC's Fine Art lecturer Dai Williams put it to me as an 'aesthetic National Service,' which is a really novel and completely perfect interpretation of it. I strongly recommend studying Foundation before pursuing an Art & Design degree, you're encouraged to find your own solutions to a brief, working relatively independently, while your own studio space creates a unique environment that merges classroom, office, workshop and gallery. This coupled with regular tutorials and seminars (and parties), gives life to a really dynamic learning space. The opportunities to visit Cardiff, London, Bristol & Amsterdam opened my eyes to what the outside world was really doing in a previously unseen, but very real Art & Design world.
For anyone who's daunted by the cost of materials and trips, there's a Contingency Fund in place to help out when you need it, and there are no tuition fees to pay – all you need is a train ticket and an open mind.
Architecture Work Experience
Before the Foundation Exhibition in May 2010, I was lucky to find work-experience with an Architect in Swansea. As it is, I achieved a Distinction in my Diploma, which led to me applying to some of the country's leading Schools of Art & Design, one of them being Central St. Martin', a constituent College of the University of the Arts London, and an internationally recognised establishment.
Meanwhile, my fortnight's work experience had turned into a month's trial, which turned into a full-time paid job for the duration of my Gap Year. I've worked for the company since June 2010, and have been offered work there during Uni breaks and after my degree. It so happens, my boss and some workmates speak Welsh, so for what was only a few years ago considered a 'dead' language, it's pretty prevalent.
I begin my studies on St. Martins' three year 'BA (Hons) Architecture: Spaces & Objects' course in September, in the redeveloped King's Cross area of London. This will fulfil one of three steps that lead to becoming a professional registered Architect in the UK, a title that is protected by the ARB (Architect's Registration Board) and RIBA (Royal Institute of British Architects). Following my BA degree I'll take a year out to gain professional experience. A Master's degree will follow, gaining me RIBA Part 2. A final year in professional practice is required to fulfil RIBA Part 3 and to become fully qualified. So I've got a way to go.
But, I've come further than I could ever have imagined since finishing school: I've made some great friends along the way, enjoyed life, gained invaluable experience and I have some brilliant contacts for the future. Not bad for a Cwmgwrach boy.
And to anyone who feels daunted or dejected by any of their prospects I'd say: 'Ambition is the last refuge of failure.' There's no-one else in the world that will go further for you and your aspirations than you, so get out there and make it happen. You might just surprise yourself. The foundations of skills and techniques of Art and Design taught at Neath Port Talbot College got me where I am today.