Student stories: Neil Garradley - The Open College of the Arts
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Student stories: Neil Garradley

My study into the realm of textiles has been a journey of learning, development and creativity. The experience has been amazing so far and the learning has become not only a source of focus but also a building block to self-preservation in my own personal busy life.

My decision to study textiles came from regrets in life. I had started my degree many years ago but gave this up due to personal circumstances. Then such is life, it has downfalls – my life spiralled out of control and I became an alcoholic for around 10 years. I have been clean now for five years solid, my studies have been my focus and my light at the end of the tunnel, and I am a believer in life you have to have the bad to get to the good. I came across the OCA merely by chance, applied and became successful. This degree has saved my life.

There have been a huge amount of obstacles, re-entering education after thirty years. The technology aspect of setting up a blog, tutorials via video call. Being brave to publish my work to other students and having a personal voice, talking about my achievements in my work. The list is endless but I am prepared to overcome them all.

Textiles is such an important part of art and design and is all around us in our daily lives. Studying textiles with the OCA has given me more self-awareness, expanded my knowledge and strengthened my thought processes into a journey of exploration and excitement.

Four years into the course I have also developed my academic, technology skills and given me a personal voice. I have also produced an article for Vivienne Westwood which was published on her website.  My article was connected to the Vivienne Westwood Brinton carpets campaign back in the ’90s. Because of my love for Vivienne, my textiles studies had a real connection for my interest in fashion and my icon Vivienne Westwood. When I was notified by Ben Westwood that they wished to publish my article on their then blog I was like the Cheshire cat.

At present, I am in preparation with some of the other OCA students for an exhibition of our work at the Kidderminster Carpet museum. Our exhibition is about adult learning with the OCA. A journey of experience and seeing a piece of your own work in an exhibition hanging on the wall, for the sense of achievement and satisfaction. We all love the challenge of the study, the determination and the drive to fulfil our own personal goals. The exhibition studio will be local to me here at Kidderminster carpet museum. The organisation of the exhibition is one of fear, excitement but a life long learning experience. More details to come in early 2020!

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Posted by author: Neil Garradley
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12 thoughts on “Student stories: Neil Garradley

  • Neil what a wonderful post! Thank you so much for sharing. On my notice board above my desk I have the phrase “transformational learning” to remind me every day the importance of what we do as educators . Your post shows in bucket loads the value of learning and I am so proud to have been part of that journey

  • This is so lovely to read, Neil! I am very excited to where this journey will take you- your post shows how the journey can be so much more that just the creative practice alone. Like Rebecca, I’m also proud to be part of your current journey!

  • I am struggling with studying as I start a Textile Degree with OCA and your blog has encouraged me.

    I live in Herefordshire and will be visiting your work at Kidderminster Carpet Museum with much interest.

    Thanks for the boost of creativity. Claire

  • Neil, you are such an inspiration, not afraid to swim in the deeper parts of life’s ocean, as you are. I did not know about the Westwood thing – seeing how you love Westwood, this is so great to read. Good luck with the next steps.

  • Great Post Neil, Your words resound so very much my journey with OCA, its quite amazing what we achieve and how our work changes and develops, Also being a mature student myself the additional skills we have needed to acquire have in themselves been confidence building, although to be honest I don’t think I shall ever master photoshop!. Wish I could see your exhibition but sadly live too far south. Love the brown paper bag piece.

  • Thanks for writing this post Neil: your story is moving, your words are encouraging and your work is so interesting. Good luck with the rest of your ‘transformational learning’ journey.

  • Your post is so inspiring Neil, I was so glad to read it. I have completed the foundation course in textiles and had decided not to take my studies any further but after reading your story I may reconsider! Thank you for sharing your journey.

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