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Because the world needs: rule-breakers

Grayson Perry knows how to make a statement. The Turner Prize winner and Chancellor of UAL talks about his personal experience of becoming an artist and explains why creative graduates are now more important than ever.

Grayson Perry wearing robes by Rachele Terrinoni
Grayson Perry wearing robes by Rachele Terrinoni, MA Costume Design for Performance, London College of Fashion

“I think what sparked my need to be creative was my home situation when I was small. Chaotic and frightening events were happening and I needed to make a world where I had control. The young human mind is amazing – it instinctively creates what it needs.

I think people need to express themselves so they feel ‘seen’. We all need validation of who we are in all its complexity. We need to be validated by our families, friends, colleagues and the wider world. Creativity is a subtle, wondrous way of showing everyone what is going on inside us.

The best thing about being an artist is that it is my job to do exactly what I want. Every artist writes their own career plan. Of course, it never goes as expected but we set our own goals and with a big dollop of luck we achieve something close-ish.

Going to art school is important because to thrive in a culture, we need to pick up the feeling of that culture. An art school is where we are exposed to the sensibilities, tone, ideas, expectations, conventions, rituals and groupthink of the art world. We can choose to work with it or against it but we need to experience it first.

UAL is the world’s biggest factory for trouble because it has this huge resource in its staff and history. The staff are creative people themselves. They want to be surprised and delighted by the students and they encourage them to take risks, push back and point out to them that, as tutors at UAL, they have seen it all – well, nearly.

Creative graduates are especially well equipped for the future because they are encouraged to be self-sufficient and adaptable and their talents are applicable in many fields in our rapidly changing world. From luxury to mental health, from mass production to protest, it’s always handy to have an artist on board.”

Grayson Perry
Grayson Perry wearing robes by Rachele Terrinoni © David Poultney

Grayson’s robes competition

Each year Grayson chooses a design created by a UAL student to wear at the University’s graduation ceremonies.

In 2019 the winner was Rachele Terrinoni (MA Costume Design for Performance), whose striking design included a custom-made petticoat and a Swarovski-crystal encrusted coat.