phoebe cummings

“The world needs more compassion”

Award-winning artist and 3D Design and Craft alumna Phoebe Cummings told University of Brighton graduates at their awards ceremony: “The challenges the world faces as we move into the future demand people think creatively, to question, problem solve and collaborate.”

“The future needs openness, inclusivity and diversity. The future needs compassion and care; it needs your individual and collective voices and actions more than ever.”

Phoebe was speaking at the Brighton Centre on 30 July)after receiving an Honorary Doctorate of Arts for her major contribution to the arts and crafts.

Phoebe works in raw clay and draws inspiration from the natural world. She studied 3D Crafts at the University before going on to complete an MA in Ceramics and Glass at the Royal College of Art in 2005.

Phoebe exhibits internationally, spent six months as artist-in-residence at the Victoria & Albert Museum and has taught at Harvard University and the Royal College of Art. She won the British Ceramics Biennial Award 2011 and the inaugural winner of BBC Radio 4 Woman’s Hour Craft Prize in 2018.

She said: “I think about my own friends that I met 20 years ago in Brighton and I recognise some things we all share; an independence and commitment to pursue what we believe in.  A willingness and openness to question how and why we do what we do. The University of Brighton encouraged openness and encouraged us to find our own voices.

“I would like to thank Alma Boyes in particular, who was my tutor and introduced me to ceramics, sharing her wealth of knowledge and skills without imposing any expectation of how they should be used, or limiting how ceramics should be defined.  Her good humour, warmth and support did not end when I graduated, and I am truly grateful to her and the energy with which she continues to lead the course forward.”

Phoebe said her career was not all plain sailing: “At 24 I declared myself bankrupt. Within that formal declaration of having nothing I also found clarity and re-affirmed what I was unwilling to compromise; to keep making work that interested me with a material I continually learn from and think through. I had to find new ways of working, there needed to be sustainability and initially for a large part of the year I did other kinds of work to afford me the freedom to pursue those first creative projects. It is worth remembering that regardless of what you are doing, you never stop thinking like an artist or designer.”

She urged graduates: “Always continue pushing against the limits you encounter, recognise doubts, your own and those of others, without being shaped by them.”

Finally, she told them: “Today, take a moment to celebrate and reflect on all you have achieved so far, all you have learned, and all the friendships made along the way that you will carry with you forever.”


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