Keira Thomson - BA (Hons) Communication Design

Keira Thomson Communication Design Student, Gray's Degree Show
Communication Design student, Keira Thomson specialises in photography and creates a project that challenges the stigma surrounding mental health and the damaging phrases often used to describe it, such as ‘it’s all in your head’.

23-year-old Keira Thomson from Shetland joined Gray’s after doing a HND in Photography at the City of Glasgow College. Gray’s seemed a good option. It had the appeal of being closer to home and she was impressed by the facilities on offer.

Keira initially studied a BA in Photography at Gray’s before pursuing her honours in Communication Design, deciding this course would give her the best chance of employment after graduating. 

Her final year project focuses on mental health, a subject she is particularly interested in and has been the focus of several of recent photography projects. 

Keira explains more: “This year's major project was no exception, and this time, I decided to concentrate on self-portraiture. I focused on the stigma surrounding mental health, primarily the damaging phrases often used toward mental illness, such as 'it's all in your head.' 

“I worked to creatively obscure myself through a mixture of handwritten/handmade elements as well as using analogue and digital techniques. As a self-confessed perfectionist, I have found that creative destruction has allowed me to let go of preconceptions and appreciate the beauty in my mistakes.”

Keira’s thought-provoking collection of work encourages people to think how their words may directly affect those around them. She focuses on the negative comments people use in everyday language and encourages us to rethink our attitudes to mental health.

“Some people may be trying to be helpful, others maybe acting out of malice or even trying to joke, but regardless of intention, from my personal perspective, words like these can stick with you and negatively impact you for a long time.”

“The tutors have all been very supportive, and I've been encouraged to pursue my own interests. This year, we completed a personal and professional development module that gave us time to consider our future career goals. We were encouraged to do work that would help us get a head start and appeal to potential employers.”

Keira has received national recognition for her work, being longlisted for the Scottish Portrait Awards in Fine Art in 2021 and the Visual Arts Scotland graduate showcase award.

Reflecting on her success, Keira says: “I'm pleased with the work I’ve achieved this year. I only wish I had more time to benefit from the facilities at Gray's, as I’ve really enjoyed it. Having studied art and photography in other institutions, I didn't get the sense of creativity and encouragement to try new things, like I have had at Gray's. I can honestly say it has been a thoroughly pleasurable experience. 

“Being welcomed into other departments and taking part in workshops has been beneficial to my way of working. Over these couple of years, I have found that I enjoy mixing media and have developed a passion for black and white film photography. I've spent a lot of time in the darkroom this year, being helped a lot by (darkroom specialist) Anne Campbell. I utilised both day and night 'twilight' sessions.”

“Film photography is something I'd love to carry on after graduation. I'm thinking about taking over the basement at home and building a little darkroom for myself. Through all the stress of deadlines etc., the darkroom was my place of calm within the chaos. My mind cleared when I was there, and time seemed to drift by. 

“Gray's offers a range of workshops and night classes for students, which I have made use of this year. I’ve tried printmaking, ceramics, and textiles; I only wish I had more time to do more and visit more departments! I've tried to fit in as much as I can as my BA photography course last year was delivered entirely online, so I didn't get a chance to be on campus and be part of everything it has to offer. I also took part in a mural painting in our classroom and a bookbinding workshop through my course.” 

Now that Keira is almost finished University, she’s considering her career plans and what to do next!

“I'm still trying to figure out what I’m going to do, quite honestly. I'm quite shy, so the idea of being a photographer doesn't appeal so much to me anymore, although I do still enjoy it. I'm thinking about continuing to build up my graphic design skills and perhaps going down that route. 

“In the meantime, I have a small business making and selling recycled driftwood sculptures. I tried ceramics at Gray's this year and loved it – so this is something I'd like to get more into. My mum also has a silver jewellery business and is attending the Edinburgh show this year, so I've already been roped into helping with that. Even right before graduation, I'm still continuing to learn, try new things and expand my creative knowledge.”

See more of Keira’s work:

Follow Keira's recycled driftwood art on Instagram: @KeiraJemDesigns 

Cookie Consent