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Student stories: Tracy Walker - The Open College of the Arts

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Student stories: Tracy Walker

In this blogpost I’d like to introduce one of our most established interior design degree students – Tracy.

Tracy has been studying with us for some time, and it has been great to see how far she has progressed on her learning journey with OCA over the last few years, and how much her design work has developed.

With determination and perseverance she is just about to start her fifth degree unit, Medium: Design at a Human Scale, and I thought this would be the perfect time to catch up and see what she has made of her studies so far!

Catherine: What did you expect to learn about when you enrolled on your first Interior Design unit at the OCA?

Tracy: I enrolled expecting to learn how to improve my skills and knowledge with all things design, how to communicate my designs and build my own confidence and beliefs whilst dealing with real life situations.

Catherine: What do you feel you’ve learnt in the last four units, that you didn’t expect when starting your studies?

Tracy: So much more than expected. My knowledge is so much greater, I feel that I have been guided in the right direction when it comes to learning from designers and their designs. I actually have to refer back to previous units to remind myself how immersed I felt when carrying out certain exercises, there is a natural flow that works for me! I’m still very excited to move on to the next step within each unit, hungry to learn more and more. I honestly was not expecting to learn in so much depth about architecture, but I’m so glad I did, it all connects to design and encourages us to think about design carefully and responsibly.

Catherine: Which unit have you enjoyed the most so far?

Tracy: I think my favourite so far has to be Creative Practice. The whole unit gave me such an understanding into so many different creative niches, it gave me a chance to explore and improve my knowledge in areas I have a real connection with. That said, Detailed Spatial Understanding was great too, it definitely feels like I’m heading in the right direction, the approach just flows naturally. The work however isn’t easy, but I now have the right tools to help me better understand each step.

Catherine: How do you feel about submitting your work for your fourth assessment event?

Tracy: This part is the most overwhelming. I feel limited with what I’m allowed to submit, but also understand the need to help me evaluate and critique my best work and equally my not so best work! Audrey’s cheat sheet idea is great to help me organise my thoughts. I’m currently working on my video evaluation and I’m feeling much more confident with the work I’ve produced and how I’m communicating it compared to the previous 3.

Catherine: What are you looking forward to exploring in your next unit?

Tracy: I’m looking forward to increasing my knowledge and confidence, and improving upon my drawing skills, both digitally and technically.

Catherine: What events provided by the OCA – outside your course work – would you say have impacted your studies in a positive way? (Group work events, study trips, open door sessions, life drawing,work in progress sessions?). And why/how.

Tracy: I have visited London twice in the last couple of years, firstly to meet two other students and enjoy the London Design Festival. Living and working in the South West of England means I’m not able to take trips to cities as often as I would like, so these meet-ups are imperative to my learning. Even though the OCA didn’t organise this meet, I did feel encouraged by my tutors to do so.

Secondly, was last summer to meet up with students and one of the tutors, Catherine. This trip was organised by the OCA and very much needed. What an unbelievable experience, not just that I was in the vibrant city of London, but talking with like minded students and getting to know each other. Catherine has been a great support throughout my studies so to finally meet in person was wonderful, it felt great to connect with each other in real life, especially after the restrictions in recent years of the pandemic.

I have also taken part in the virtual drawing sessions organised by and with 2bornot2b collective, they are so helpful and really low key. The sessions that are organised internally are also great, I’ve learned so much from them. My recent Work In Progress session was also brilliant, although no students were there to see me present my work (phew!) my tutors were very supportive. It was great to support another student with her presentation recently, it’s all part and parcel of becoming a designer.


Catherine: What things – events happening outside the OCA – would you say have had an impact on your studies in a positive way? (Exhibitions, travel, podcasts, lectures, websites, magazines). And why/how.

Tracy: I’m always researching within my studies but it has become the norm for me, I am living the dream of learning everything design. When I’m able to I visit local exhibitions, galleries and events. Whether they are connected directly to spatial design or not doesn’t matter, it’s the atmosphere within an exhibition that excites, and mingling with people that are also design minded.

I have a regular magazine subscription, given to me as a Christmas present, to The World of Interiors, which I used to collect back in the 90’s! It’s my excuse to stop and sit with a cuppa tea whilst educating myself on the world of interiors.

Podcasts are also a fun way to connect with designers. I usually listen whilst working or on a long car or train journey. I also have my own Instagram account where I connect with like minded people, share my designs and images of what inspires me everyday.

I love to get away from the desk and technology and go for a dog walk, immersing myself in nature reminds me to stay grounded and enjoy the journey that I’m currently on.

There is a great series on Netflix called Abstract: The Art of Design, each one talks in depth to a designer, it’s very interesting.

I have also been given the opportunity to design a space for a family friend, which I jumped at the chance of doing. The skills that I have learned whilst studying played a huge part in creating a wonderful space.

Catherine: What would you like to see more of as part of your studies?

Tracy: I would absolutely love to connect with more students. We have a WhatsApp group where we can connect but it would be lovely to organise some real life events. This way we can organise our time and prepare a little more. I have joined the student OCASA group and keep an eye out for events in that way, but whilst working full time and studying part time it isn’t always possible to join in. It would also be great to see more direction with regards to learning new software. Maybe recommendations of videos and podcasts when we are teaching ourselves in these areas.

Catherine: I agree that connecting with your fellow students is really important, and a fantastic way of helping you to support each other through your studies. We run lots of group work events and drop in sessions to facilitate this and it would be great to see more students taking advantage of these opportunities! Videos and extra resources are often posted on the Interior Design Studio Wall Padlet, and also through the Announcements forum on the ID homepage – things like the Film Nights – and again, the more students who use these resources the better.

Catherine: What advice would you give to a new degree student starting out on their first unit of study?

Tracy: I would say if you have a love for design then you’re halfway there. Enjoy the journey, connect with other like minded people and students, this way you can learn from others which will help build on your own work. The first year of my study was quite a lonely place as it was a relatively new course with hardly any students, but I persevered and I am now making connections every day and learning so much more than I expected. Also, if like me you lack confidence in your drawing and communicating skills, don’t expect your work to be perfect, take on board the feedback the tutors give you and you will learn from them and see improvement in time. Just take the plunge and enjoy each moment.

Catherine: Definitely a love for design – if you can immerse yourself in the world of design then that’s a great starting point.

Catherine: I know you’ve had a bit of work experience whilst you’ve been studying (the design job for your friend’s mother? that you mentioned?). How has this experience helped in your understanding of Interior Design as a subject? Has it made you do things differently in your project work?

Tracy: When I was asked to design a space for my daughters’ future parents in-laws’ living room, I jumped at the chance. I was excited to bring all of the knowledge and skills I had learned with the OCA, I doubt I would have been able to come across so professionally had I not learned these skills. I felt confident when I was chatting to them, I presented 3D visuals using Sketchup, whilst drinking coffee at their dining room table, it was such a great feeling and they went ahead with my design! My confidence has grown knowing people believe in me and my visions and my future feels brighter than a few years ago all thanks to learning with the OCA.

Catherine: Thanks so much for taking the time to answer all the questions and to talk about your experiences on the course so far. Good luck with the next unit, and remember that once you have finished this one you are over halfway through your degree! Amazing work 🙂

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Posted by author: Catherine Byrne

11 thoughts on “Student stories: Tracy Walker

  • I’m super proud of my work! and very relieved that I’ve improved also, thanks for giving me the chance to reflect on the last few years and I hope to connect with more students soon.

  • You should be proud of your work! You’ve come a long way, and as tutors we’ve seen fantastic improvement as you’ve progressed – keep going 🙂

  • Ah, I loved reading this! Your work and progress is such a testament to your own discipline and positive attitude – towards even the challenging parts!

  • I found Tracy on Instagram and I messaged her to ask about her opinion about OCA and their interior design course. I wasn’t sure she was going to answer, but to my surprise she spent so much time explaining everything in detail to me. It was so useful! Hope you are happy to know I enrolled in Foundations Interior Design. Thanks Tracy!

    • Hi Inma,
      That’s such a lovely story – I’m so glad that you’ve joined us!
      We always encourage students to make connections with each other and to be supportive throughout their studies – and you have managed to do this even before you’ve started which is fantastic 🙂
      I hope you enjoy the beginning of your Foundations course and look forward to meeting you at some point in the future. If you have any questions about the course then do please get in touch – no question is too silly!
      Best wishes, Catherine

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