Italian jeweller Lieta Marziali, who has a studio in Holt, Norfolk and has exhibited her work internationally, explains why she has made the long trip from Norfolk to London for the last three years to undertake London Met’s MA by Project.
What makes this MA particularly distinctive for you?
Our MA is a very special course at The Cass, because it’s very focused on research, but at the same time on personal projects. Every cohort, every year is incredibly multidisciplinary, and within disciplines, let’s say fine art, there will be people with incredibly different projects, so it’s a very rich environment, very critical, but also very friendly and it pushes you to places in your work and in your practice that you would not have thought of before.
What led you to this course?
I’m a jeweller, and when I arrived at The Cass, I had a fledgling jewellery practice already, but this course brought it all together and consolidated everything. It has already helped to answer a big big question for me – why I practice art. Simone, who is one of our main tutors talks about solving good problems and finding the ingredients of your practice – these analogies work very well for me.
In fact, I’ve used my practice as part of my research – in terms of putting myself always out of the comfort zone as a methodology – putting myself in unfamiliar situations, trying unfamiliar materials.
I knew that jewellery was good for me, that it was my medium, I knew my materials (found objects mainly), I love very very simple, low-tech work, and narrative. But what I’ve been able to do is to put it in a much bigger theoretical context, which makes me feel as a researcher-practitioner it’s given me a solid footing. I’d already started exhibiting internationally a little bit, but through the course, partly because I threw myself out into this world, and partly because the world of contemporary art jewellery is very international, it has helped me to find my tribe.
How has the course changed you?
Now I am comfortable not only with other colleague practitioners but in an academic field. Being part of a research degree and presenting yourself as a researcher is not about opening doors; it’s about perception. As a practitioner-researcher, you feel that you have a little bit more gravitas out there. When I go to conferences, I know that I can not only show some interesting work but I can also articulate what it’s about and it’s an important step in one’s practice.
This project has furnished me with confidence, but also provided me with a safe environment – it’s really worked and it’s put me on the map out there a lot more. I’ve been very lucky to have been exhibited quite a bit in Europe and it’s growing.
How is the MA structured?
You come in with an idea, a project proposal, which is handed in very early on, with the proviso that it can change and take you through research to all sorts of different places.
You’re guided through understanding your project proposal and why you want to research, which is really important. And then there are seminars for us all together, so we have a dialogue between architects, painters, people who draw and tutors from other disciplines, which means that we have crits with not only students but other tutors. They’re not easy environments but they help us understand the way they work. We have a theory module, which is multidisciplinary – with every different cohort of students, we look at the individual projects, so everything is very tailored. We do as much theory for each other as the tutor does for us.
As the projects develop, we go in our different directions, but then come back and articulate what we’re doing. By the time we finish we have really practiced being able to articulate our ideas and projects.
It culminates in a final critical and evaluative report. It forces you to narrate the story of your project, to contextualise it, to pull your own strengths together – to see what questions have you asked, what thread you followed and how critical you were with your own work.
How have you found the teaching team?
The team is fantastic – because everybody has such a great set of skills, they’re all very complementary, so the teaching team is very small, very intense and very closely knit. There’s a lot of communication. It’s an amazing bubble and a very very rich environment.
Any final thoughts?
This course was recommended to me because of the way I worked. The three years have been hard – I feel like I’ve been pushed and pulled, which is fantastic for a research MA.
The environment is very nurturing and safe but also pushes you to go further. You have people with whom to butt heads with and discuss things, but also to discuss your insecurities, so the course has done an awful lot for me.
I really recommend this MA. This is art education at its best – it gives you a methodology to approach any other field that you might want to be in. I have travelled from Norfolk for three years to be here – I have not regretted a single moment to the point that I’m now thinking about staying on for a PhD.