Lisa Ross - BA (Hons) Fine Art

Lisa Ross at Summer Graduation 2024
A single mum of three, who had dreamt of studying at Gray’s School of Art since first visiting as a teenager, now graduating with First Class Honours specialising in Contemporary Art Practice.

Mature student, Lisa from Aberdeenshire, has fulfilled a life-long ambition to come to Gray’s School of Art, after previously dedicating twelve years to being a full-time mum.

Before children, Lisa studied a HND in Graphic Design and HNC in Fashion, Stitching and Textiles at Aberdeen College. Life took over, and it was only when her youngest child started primary school, that she felt like it was time she to do something for herself.

“I was away for a long time being a mum. When my youngest started primary school, I was like ‘what do I do?’ It was always my dream to come to Gray's. From the first time I visited, I knew it was the place I always wanted to be.”

Prior to applying, Lisa took a part time Portfolio Building Course at Gray's every Saturday morning for about twelve weeks. This fully funded course, which is part of Gray’s creative development programme, Engage , gives an insight into how to build a portfolio.

“I really enjoyed the portfolio course. It was great to do something for myself again, and to be surrounded by other like-minded creatives. I was given the opportunity to see first-hand the purpose-build studios and workshops at Gray’s, and to meet some of the lecturers. Not only did I gain a better understanding about what was needed to get in to art school, but I was given a terrific reference from one of the tutors.”

Lisa was impressed by the facilities at Gray’s and chose to specialise in Contemporary Art Practice, because it offered a huge variety.

“This course was always going to be my first choice. I am not the type of person that can stick to one method of making. CAP gave me the chance to use all the workshops, which I loved. My work is mostly based on sculpture, print making, photography, and design. Having the freedom to learn more skills in each of these areas has given me a greater confidence in myself and my abilities.”

Lisa says there have been many special moments during her time at Gray’s from her first-year revel to her third-year pre-degree show. Perhaps one of the biggest highlights however, has been having such a close-knit community at Gray’s.

“I’ve had great tutors, who’ve kept me on track throughout my four years but the one thing I’ve really loved is having group crits with my peers. Being able to bounce your ideas around a room of like-minded yet wildly different individuals is exciting. I always came away with new ideas and references.”

For Lisa’s degree show, she was awarded Gray’s Four Pillars Enterprising Award for producing an outstanding body of work that centres around the Scold’s Bridle.  Also known as ‘'Branks', the bridle was used as a form of punishment for women between the 1600s to 1800s, mostly to silence and humiliate women.

Lisa explains more: "Husbands used the Scold's Bridle on wives who voiced their opinions too much. Gossiping women. The church would use them on anyone who spoke ill of the church. It would be used on women deemed as witches. These torture devices would be made from heavy iron and often have a bar or spike that would sit in the mouth when worn. Forcing the wearer to be silent. At times they would be paraded around their area, making sure everyone knew they were being punished.

"Women today might have more freedom and less chances of wearing a Scold’s Bridle; however, they are still being controlled and silenced. Being told they are too loud, too much of a problem, they should calm down or use their indoor voice. All because they might raise their voice a little or a lot. Because they want to shout about their passions or point of view. They are controlled by fear and violence. They are controlled by overbearing partners, colleagues, family and governments. It is shameful behaviour that is no longer acceptable yet continues.”

Now that Lisa is graduating with a BA (Hons) Fine Art, she is overjoyed to have come this far.

“I am over the moon to have done as well as I did. I’m proud of myself. I worked hard to get there but it never felt like a chore because I enjoyed it so much.

“I am and have been a single mother to three kids for many years now. All through my time at Grays, to be able to juggle four people’s lives and schoolwork has been tricky but I’m grateful to my kids for being as supportive as they have. They always say the most positive things and gave me space when I needed to focus, like dissertation times!

“I would not change any of it and hope I have showed my children and any other single mothers that anything is possible. You just need to go for it! Now that I’m graduating, the problem isn’t whether I’m ready for the outside world; it’s not wanting to leave Gray’s! It has changed my world completely. I’d do it all again tomorrow. I’d do another four years.”

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