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Dundee's DJCAD Graduates: Rebecca Phelps & Isla Keiller
Emerging Artists
Emerging Artists

At AUTHOR we love nothing more than to feature and support makers, designers and artisans all creating their beautiful and exquisite pieces here in Britain. We highlight many artists and makers who are well established in their respective mediums; however, we also want to encourage emerging artists at the start of their careers. We are establishing this ‘Emerging Artists Series’ which will explore the stunning work of new, rising artists and graduates coming through different universities, colleges and art schools.

This week we are exploring the work of two very talented recent graduates from Dundee’s Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art & Design, Rebecca Phelps and Isla Keiller ,who both studied Jewellery and Metal Design. Rebecca produces gorgeous eco silver and titanium pieces and Isla creates her stunning porcelain vessels, decorated with resin and metal powder. Both kindly sat down with us to tell us about their work.

Isla Keiller

Congratulations to you both on completing your degrees. How do you feel?

Rebecca: I feel excited but nervous for what comes next. I am looking forward to what the future will bring.

Isla: Very glad, and excited to start the beginning of a creative career.

What was your favourite part of your degree?

Rebecca: My favourite part was learning a whole new skill. Entering the Jewellery and Metal design course I had absolutely no experience working with this material or with these techniques so I have left with multiple skills I did not have 4 years ago.

Isla: My favourite part of my degree was probably the final year because I was able to find my love for ceramics. It was stressful at times but I loved all of it.

Rebecca Phelps

What was the most challenging part of your degree?

Isla: The hardest part for me was my dissertation, I am not very skilled with writing, and I am much more of a practical person.

Rebecca: Designing something that looked totally unique and has never been done before. It’s almost impossible to do this now and Instagram is really annoying for when you think you’ve come up with a totally original idea only to find out two days later that someone has already done it.

How do you think DJCAD has affected your style and process?

Isla: If it wasn’t for the encouragement from lecturers and technicians to try many different materials and workshops, I wouldn’t have found my love for ceramics. I am really grateful for that.

Rebecca: DJCAD has definitely taught me to think through every idea and how to expand one design into multiple variations, as well as having documentation for every thought and design. It has also taught me the value of keeping a sketchbook and being able to prove the natural progression of my designs from inspiration, to development, to the final design.

Work of Isla Keiller

Did you always know you wanted to work with your chosen material, or has it been a process of evolution for you?

Rebecca: It has definitely been an evolution, when I decided to focus on silversmithing I knew metal was the material I was going to work with but the thought of raising in silver was quite scary at first until I had done it a few times and got used to the material and now I love it.

Isla: Definitely a process of evolution. I tried so many different materials before I discovered ceramics. I always knew I was more drawing and sculpture led but didn’t feel confident with a material until last year.

Were you always interested in creating things from childhood?

Rebecca: I have always been interested in creative processes. I was always drawing or knitting as a child and when I left school I knew I wanted to do something creative I just had no idea what.

Isla: Yes I was, I was raised in a rural area and was always encouraged to be outside playing and making things. I think because my mum is a fine artist, she always encouraged me to create and be inspired from natural objects.

Work of Rebecca Phelps

Where did your passion for making your pieces come from?

Isla: My passion has always stemmed from natural form, from a child to now, I have always enjoyed walking and have always seen beautiful shapes and patterns through trees and landscapes.

Rebecca: I think my passion for making these pieces has come from my love of hammers and the techniques themselves. Raising and chasing are quite repetitive and therapeutic processes as well which is nice when you are a bit stressed.

Where do you draw your inspiration from for your pieces?

Isla: My current pieces are inspired specifically from trees line and forms that I see while exploring and walking. I then developed this through photography, drawing, and ceramics.

Rebecca: My inspiration came from rock formations found in East Fife, particularly Pittenweem and Elie, these areas hold personal significance to me because they meant a lot to myself and my mother who passed away 6 years ago. I wanted to capture the simple beauty of these rocks through textures and colours found in my entire collection.

Work of Isla Keiller

What is your favourite part of the making process?

Rebecca: My favourite part was the chasing and texturing, they are such simple techniques but they create such beautiful effects.

Isla: My favourite part of the making process is probably the mid-way point when a piece is starting to form and you can see your design emerge into a 3D shape. There is such a great feeling of achievement when your work begins to come together.

Do you have any particular design heroes or other makers your work has been influenced by?

Rebecca: Adi Toch is one of my design heroes, I love her use of patination and her designs because they look so simple but are actually more complicated than they seem.

Isla: I am influenced by many designers and makers, one which has influenced myself as well many is Barbra Hepworth.

Work of Rebecca Phelps

Any upcoming projects/pieces you’re working on that you’d like to tell us about?

Isla: There are a few designs that I have just waiting to be made, and I plan to have a new collection made as soon as possible.

Rebecca: Currently, I am working on a textured jewellery collection that includes cufflinks, rings and pendants. I am also planning to create another collection of vessels using different patination techniques.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years time?

Isla: Hopefully with the foundations of my own business within hand-built ceramics.

Rebecca: Ideally owning my own business to create my own work to sell and exhibit.

About the Author


Written by Jane Adams, founder of Author Interiors. LinkedIn:

Read more about her here.

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