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An interview with Jillian Ballas

American BA (Hons) Fine Art student Jillian Ballas discusses her love for art and how she thinks studying at NUA has helped her creatively.

How did you discover your passion for Fine Art?

Fine Art was so instinctual for me, ever since I was little my parents have fostered creativity and so I found myself time and again finding opportunities to create. It just felt so incredibly natural that I pursued it and realised that I want this as a career, not just as a hobby.

Tell me about the projects you have been working on since you started at NUA.

I’m creating a lot of environmental-based work, so right now I’m doing plaster sculptures and I’m calling it my restoration series. I’m making plaster mosaics of nature and then having it be healed with moss, much like the practice of Kintsugi.

Kintsugi is a Japanese philosophy where they fill broken pottery with gold, so I’ve been taking that idea into my practice.

What project have you struggled with yet enjoyed the most?

Probably the piece I’ve just created – it was the most difficult piece I’ve done but it was also the most enjoyable because I was being challenged.

Every single step of the way there was a hurdle I had to overcome or use to my advantage. If I didn’t know what to do I would ask the technicians, they’re very knowledgeable and they’ll help you with whatever you need.

Jillian Ballas

Why did you choose to study to NUA, and is it how you expected?

It’s better than I expected. I chose to come to NUA because there are a lot of schools where you have to choose a medium, like sculpture or painting.

Here, when I was interviewing for BA Fine Art, I was told that I was allowed to explore different mediums and see where my practice would take me. I’m doing sculpture this year and I love it! I would not have known that if I’d had to go in saying I want to do painting.

I love how the tutors encourage you to try different perspectives, and they encourage you to go bigger in your work, to try things you’d never thought of. They’re really verbal and really hands-on with helping you.

How do you think your course will help you in what you want to do next?

At NUA they give you so many options to do outside exhibitions and competitions, and you get advice from your tutors in how to do that, so I can see that really helping me going forward – learning how to put proposals together, and networking!

How do you think your course has helped you or changed you?

I think it’s made me a lot more open to different types of art. Before I came to NUA I wasn’t super interested in anything abstract, but since being here I’ve actually started to enjoy abstract art. Just by learning about the history and doing it myself, it’s really made me more open to different practices.

“I love how the tutors encourage you to try different perspectives, and they encourage you to go bigger in your work, to try things you’d never thought of”

Jillian Ballas

What do you think about the community and student experience at NUA?

I would say everyone’s incredibly friendly and everyone’s willing to help each other with their work – you really get to know everybody. You help each other if there’s any issues, and there’s a group chat so we’re constantly talking if we have any problems. It’s a really positive experience.

What do you think about Norwich? 

I love the coffee shops, there’s so many and I absolutely love that! I love the history here, you can walk on cobblestones and you see something different every single day.

There’s so much embedded history within each street. I enjoy just going for walks around the city and seeing what I can find and getting inspiration from it. 

What do you think the advantages are for American students who study in the UK?

One big thing is the cost – usually art schools in the US can be a lot more expensive so that’s a really good incentive. Also for a really good price you get the option of living abroad, so at a young age you’re able to explore different places, perspectives and cultures.

What advice do you have for someone from your country who might be considering studying in the UK?

I would say don’t get overwhelmed by all the paperwork you have to do – it’s actually not that hard to get a student visa, it just takes patience. Also keep an open mind when you get over here and let yourself explore, because you’re in a totally new culture and new environment.

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