How do you make a Degree Show?

Third year Fine Art (Sculpture) student Selina Hamilton at Winchester School of Art talks us through her Degree show, from the light bulb moment to becoming a reality. 

Since studying at Winchester School of Art nothing surprises me anymore, expect craziness on a whole new level and always, ALWAYS ‘know your practice’. Learn this and you’re basically an Art Student.

But what many people may not know is that actually art school is tough, super fun, but tough. You need to know your stuff! Artists, materials and processes, it all counts. The number one thing that art students must know is what their art work is actually all about. You need to know what you’re doing and why you’re doing it, simple right? WRONG!

Selina Hamilton’s pompoms, pictured at Winchestival

It’s two months to the day until hand in and I have no idea what I’m doing, after a mini breakdown after my VIVA assessment (where you present your ideas and work to your tutors) in floods of tears I went to see my studio technician. He put it simply and said, “If you want to make a giant pompom make a giant pompom.” A GIANT POMPOM, A GIANT POMPOM?! (Previously I had made a giant pompom but never really took the idea any further). I had a think, and as mad as it sounds to non-art school students it was actually a really good idea! Why did I not think of this sooner and what will it be about?

I decide to go forth and make the pompoms, without any real idea about why I’m doing it. But one thing I do know is that I love the colour pink. My ‘practice’ has always included pink in some way. A lightbulb literally appears and ‘The UEFA Champions League’ anthem starts playing. Why don’t I make giant pink pompoms! It’s so me, it’s so pink, and it’s so art school!

I began by spending a small fortune on 2000 sheets of cerise and baby pink tissue paper, and began to create my pompoms, this is a very repetitive process. To make a pompom I start by cutting one sheet of tissue paper and turning it into a tassel. 48+ tassels later and a very lengthy bit of hemp string and I have one pompom. I now have 30 pompoms and no idea how I’m displaying them. Meanwhile the pompoms were sharing a room with 300 bandages which equated to over 500 metres in length and 3,480 unbound book pages, on the floor, on the walls and at times on the ceiling.

Throughout this I’m documenting everything. Researching artists, going to exhibitions and not having a social life. Similar to what any student experiences when they have a deadline, except I’m making giant pink pompoms. That aside, the research methods are pretty similar. I was researching the cultural changes that the colour pink had gone through over the last few hundred years, and I was researching what the colour meant to different cultures, races and religions. I educated myself on the history of the colour, which gave me more of an understanding as to why pink is such a controversial and conversational colour.

Pompoms under construction!

Two weeks until deadline and set up has begun in the Sculpture Studio. I need to re-string and re-floof the pompoms and work out where I’m hanging them. Before anything can be hung the sculpture studio needs to be cleaned, holes filled, the floors scraped clear of plaster and wax and the walls are to be repainted.

By working with everyone who is exhibiting in the space we curate the show together and critique the work as it flows. After helping others with their work, the scaffolding was mine! Six meters above ground, taking my pompoms up one by one, the scaffolding looked like a tree out of ‘The Lorax’. It took over four days for me to hang the pompoms and a lot of blood, sweat and tears. Literally.

Pompoms being installed for the Winchester School of Art degree show

It’s handing in day and I’m feeling fragile yet fabulous. Backup work is all complete (and matching) and is now placed under my pompoms. Now it’s time to sign off. Signing in pink ink my name and date, my three years of art school has come to an end.

Whilst my pompoms are currently hanging in the sculpture studio, I’ve also won an internship with Winchestival creating pompom decorations for their festival tents. As well as this, the Hat Fair has also recruited me to make an installation piece at St John’s Almshouses assisted living, where my pompoms from the degree show will be featured. Through this internship I’ve also taught creative workshops where the work created by the residents from the Almshouses will also be shown.

It’s fantastic to see how far my work has come in such a short space of time, and the opportunities that I’ve had because of it. Throughout university I’ve always wanted to work with young people to help inspire them to follow and pursue their creative talents so that they can be confident enough to show what they can do in the world, because young people are amazing!

Follow the journey of how the pompoms came to be be on Instagram at @pink_wsa and check out Selina’s craft page @madlemonillustrations.

See Selina’s in person work at this years Hat Fair in Winchester, 29 June – 1 July 2018.

Arts Ambassadors pictured with Selina’s work. L to R: Katherine Wells, Louise Johnson, Gabi Gurycz, Ben McQuigg, Doria Wang

Published by

Arts at University of Southampton

Whether you’re a student, staff or from our wider community, there are plenty of exciting cultural opportunities for everyone through Arts at University of Southampton.

2 thoughts on “How do you make a Degree Show?”

  1. Congratulations! I loved your show and am looking forward to seeing it again in a different location as part of Hat Fair.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.