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Student Interview: RCA Cass Scholarship

in Interviews by Cass Art
Student Interview: RCA Cass Scholarship

Supporting artists is incredibly important to us at Cass Art and the Cass family have been doing so for over 100 years! Today they are helping future generations of artists through the Cass Scholarship. Funded by Eric and Jean Cass, the scholarship supports one student each year at The Royal College of Art, by funding their tuition fees in full.

We spoke to the current recipients Maisie Maris and Robert Orr about their practice, experience of art education and how the scholarship is helping them realise their careers as artists.

Hi Robert and Maisie! Firstly for someone who doesn’t know about the RCA Sculpture Scholarship, how would you sum it up? How has it supported you in your journey to becoming a professional artist?

Robert: The Cass Art Scholarship allowed me to progress at postgraduate level and without it this wouldn’t have been possible. It provides financial backing to cover tuition fees, in full, for the duration of the two-year course. It really is incredible as access to funding like scholarships has become an increasingly rare thing.

Maisie: It is an incredible opportunity. I knew after receiving a place on the course at the RCA I would be unable to attend without financial help. You’re being connected to a fantastic family run organisation that really believes in the future of sculpture. In receiving the Cass Art Scholarship, my dream became a reality. 

Image above: Robert Orr's sculpture Useful Expenditure

Could you tell us about your experience as undergraduate art students?

Robert: I studied on the BA at Chelsea where I was mainly working in sculpture. The conversations that were happening while I was there were really critical and exciting and I met some of my best friends, who are also really great artists.

Maisie: I studied a BA in Fine Art at Goldsmiths University. The course was very conceptual and involved a lot of critical discussion about where fine art sits in society today. The course encouraged me to challenge myself and to really analyse my practice.

Image above: Robert Orr's sculpture If Only Occasionally

They sound really engaging! What about your time before you started at the RCA?

Robert: After graduating I had a studio in Deptford and then Hackney. It was a slow process of making work as I was also working for a gallery to pay rent. I had the opportunity to be involved in a number of group shows and publications; that really helped me to continue conversations of critical discourse.

Maisie: After graduating I started volunteering at the Bow Arts Nunnery gallery, where I joined their artist educator course, working with a brilliant team of creative people! I am now a qualified artist educator and teach while studying at the RCA. I also had a studio at St. Katharine’s in Limehouse, where I collaborated with artist Ben Walker – we still work together today.

Image above: Maisie Maris's sculpture Snug as a Bug in a Rug

Can you tell us a bit about your studio practice and how is has evolved while studying at RCA?

Maisie: My practice stems from a love of material exploration and subverting their various properties. I’m interested in altering how we encounter the form and use narrative storytelling tropes to bring these forms to life. The wide range of innovative facilities and technical help at the RCA has allowed me to experiment with new materials and expand my practice in ways I thought not possible.

Robert: Quite soon after starting the RCA the work moved quickly into more video installation that combined a number of time based and sculptural parts. I now tend to think more about exhibition making rather than focusing on singular works. The RCA has a real material focus and so I’ve learnt a lot of new skills and the technicalities within my work have improved a lot.  

Image above: Robert Orr's sculpture If Only Occasionally

Do you have any advice for future art students?

Maisie: Going to somewhere like the RCA is a great opportunity, you’re in a safe space to grow as an artist and you’re part of a creative network of innovative thinkers and makers.

Robert: Take your time deciding where to study. Some art schools focus more on critical thinking, others on practical skills. If you can find somewhere that balances those two things then I’d go for that!

Image above: Maisie Maris's sculpture Escape

Last question! Our Kensington Cass Art store is just down the road from RCA; do you have any favourite products?

Maisie: I have always loved using Cass Art products. I’ve always loved the modelling materials, staedtler fine pens and art books. Currently my favourite product is a hand-made Indian Watercolour Paper Sketchbook.

Robert: Oh yes, I love the notebooks and diaries.

Thanks Maisie and Robert, and good luck with the rest of  your course!

Feeling Inspired?

Find out about the many ways Cass Art have supporting artists over the last 100 years here

You can find Maisie's favourite pens here and use them in your Robert inspired notebook