Alumni in Focus

Kirsty Skea

Kirsty Skea

Tumbling over and grazing your knee, a common past time of our childhood. But could we have avoided those knocks and bruises? At her Gray’s Degree Show in 2023, Kirsty Skea explored that very thing

Her playground-inspired exhibition, ‘Risky Play’, featured a section of a playground she designed to encourage children to learn risk assessment skills through play. Displaying a metal hoop which spun on its axis, the exhibit invited attendees to sit on and climb through its structure and unlock their inner child.

The School’s renowned Degree Show was a focal point of Kirsty’s student experience and a milestone in the student experience that she couldn’t wait to reach. She said: “I grew up going to see the different degree shows across Scotland each year and I was so excited that it was finally my chance to show what I had been working on.

“I was so excited for opening night - it was honestly a highlight of my entire art school experience. I remember rushing around the day before the show started collecting moss and plants from behind Gray’s to add to my display and just feeling so proud of what I’d achieved in 4th year for the first time.”


After hours of hard work, she was delighted to have her exhibit out there for the public to interact (and play) with. Her week was full of conversations with attendees and press who wanted to learn more about her exhibition (a daunting prospect for many students), but it was a group of children that gave her the most valuable of responses.

“Of all the people who interacted with my display, the best was by far a group of about 20 three-year-olds who were so engaged with my playground pieces. I felt so happy that no matter what anyone else thought, the people I made the design for thought it was a lot of fun.

“One of the kids came in the next day dragging his mum, telling her that ‘the park is over here!’. His mum told me he’d talked about my design since nursery the day before!

“I loved talking to the Higher and Advanced Higher school pupils who came to see the show, asking them about their projects and giving them tips for putting a portfolio together. The opening night was fantastic.”

But what’s life been like after Gray’s from Kirsty? Well, the question needs to be rephrased to ‘How is life at Gray’s?’ as she went on to join the School’s Graduate in Residence programme. Through the opportunity, she’s been helping current students with their projects and working in the 3D studio on her own personal projects. And off campus, things have continued to remain busy.

Kirsty continues to exhibit her work with recent features at the Courtyard Artspace in Aberdeen and at New Designers in London, both which offered her “very unique experiences and delivered even more opportunities.”

In February, she had an unmissable opportunity to work on the Northern Lights commission for SPECTRA where she joined local artists and Gray’s alumni in creating augmented reality pieces for the city’s highly anticipated annual light festival. She used the opportunity to explore her illustrative style through and find new ways to show her work. Creating a ‘river of light’, she featured 2D animations of otters and birds that the general public could interact with using their phones.

Safe to say, Kirsty has been kept busy with plenty of projects, but her biggest takeaway is the value of community and networking with artists.

“I spent a few months working with my friend Mhairi in her ceramics studio at Deemouth Artist Studios and that was another fantastic opportunity to work in a creative, inspiring environment among the wonderful people.

“I’ve found that since leaving art school, having a creative network to bounce off is such a privilege. It’s something that I think I’ll really miss once my residency at Gray’s is finished, but I know I won’t have to look far to find.”

To step back with more Gray’s Degree Show memories, visit our main Alumni in Focus page.

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