Rachel Trattles

Rachel Trattles, Fermented bacterial cellulose collection, 2013

Rachel produced a collection made out of fermented bacterial cellulose.

Fermented bacterial cellulose

For my final degree collection I envisioned the future of materials, bio-design and body adornment, exploring how our skin will need protection to cope with changing environmental conditions. I used fermented bacterial cellulose to create a collection of accessories for the future human. My aim was to address issues of sustainability in a world of finite resources.


I am heavily influenced by biological systems of growth, using Do It Yourself Bio-techniques to grow and harvest my pieces from my bedroom laboratory. I am very interested in the crossover between art, design and science and how these emerging of disciplines can create innovative new things. Our planet is ever changing, therefore we must change the ways in which we design. As designers and innovators that we are, we should be at the forefront of this change, working towards solutions for the new world we face.

What was your route into CSM?

I was totally oblivious to the reputation of CSM and applied during my Foundation year at Leeds College of Art completely by chance because I was fascinated with the idea of studying in London. I came down with my friend for the interview, for which I turned up late and hungover! I had the best few days and fell in love with the old Southampton Row building. I just knew that I wanted to study there.

How would you describe your course?

First year, you gain a lot of technical knowledge, traditional techniques and workshop inductions. In the second year, there is much more freedom in terms of conceptual projects and industry briefs. All of which, prepares you for the final year is a more self-initiated year to explore anything you want for a whole year, just pure freedom. I would say the course is really broad and encourages all different kinds of ideas about what jewellery is, from sculpture to precious metals, you are encouraged to do whatever you want.

What is a typical day like?

Most of my time throughout the final year, was spent in my bedroom, because most of my collection did not require any special machinery to be made. But I found it extremely motivating to go to the workshop to sew and put my portfolio together while, I was surrounded by my classmates, it was amusing to see how they were progressing and they always had opinions and ideas to share. Tutorials were also great, although they can be daunting at first, I always felt better after discussing my work and getting some input from the tutors.

Do you gain any experience of exhibiting or industry on the course?

I gained very valuable insight into the industry during the course of my time studying, there are always live briefs going on with all sorts of different companies and brands. Hence, you get excellent experience of presenting your work at a professional level. We worked on projects for the brands: MADE, Swarovski, Cartier, Cool Diamonds and numerous others. The tutors have amazing industry connections who attended events, gave us lectures and worked as guest tutors. The organisation of the degree show was a great experience and I found that I have used much of the professional practice knowledge I learnt over the course of my degree when taking part in exhibitions since graduating. I think the course thoroughly prepared me for entering the industry by myself without me even realising how much knowledge I was picking up at the time.

How have you found the support whilst you studied here?

The third year tutors were marvellous and extremely helpful; even since graduating I feel that I still have their support. For me, third year was an emotional journey, I would describe it as an ‘overwhelming year’, but they were always there to comfort me or give me some words of wisdom to keep going, when everything got a bit much. The technicians are willing to help with a positive attitude and they will nearly always accept whatever challenge you present them with.

Why did you chose this particular course over others?

I knew I wanted to take a conceptual route with my work and I felt that CSM was a place where I could explore these ideas freely. I looked at past degree shows and saw that the collections were interesting and unusual, therefore, I felt that it was the place for me, I wanted to be part of it.

What sort of a person do you think you need to be to do well on your course?

I think the fundamental quality that you need is the ability to generate ideas. That, and the creativity and motivation to throw yourself wholeheartedly into something you might not know that much about and come out with something that you love. 

What you love about CSM and why you’d recommend it?

CSM really is a weird and crazy place. The thing I love most is that you are always guaranteed to come across something strange happening somewhere in the building. There is always something going on, something to watch, a new installation, a performance piece or an impromptu fashion show. A highlight was seeing Grayson Perry strolling through a corridor one lunchtime! You never know what you might find in that crazy place.

What have your highlights been?

The private view of our degree show was a highlight for me. Seeing the reactions to my collection and being able to engage in conversation with all sorts of different people was really amazing. It was an overwhelming sense of accomplishment and relief. A truly amazing celebration.