Naomi Anderson-Subryan studied on the Foundation course and then went onto the BA (Hons) Illustration, both at Camberwell College of Arts, graduating in 2019. She works across a variety of mediums, from paper collage to ceramics, and her love of all things kitsch comes through in her colourful and expressive creations. Naomi also recently announced that she is now represented by Synder New York, a women-owned agency based in the USA and UK.
Here Naomi tells us about what her first year since graduating has been like and what she's up to next.
Why did you choose to study at Camberwell?
I did my foundation at Camberwell. I’ve always been creative, and I’ve always made stuff, but I never really thought about being an illustrator until I did my foundation. Prior to that, I had been working a full-time retail job having left drama school aged 19, just one year into a three-year degree. I’d been working the same job for nearly four years; I was bored and desperate to do something more creative again. I was working alongside a lot of creative people who were either at art school or had just graduated, and a friend of mine, who had done her foundation at Camberwell recommended it to me. I applied, having to put together a portfolio all on my own in a matter of months, and luckily I got in. It was the best decision I ever made. Having spent so long doing a job that no longer made me happy, Camberwell felt like a breath of fresh air - it was exciting and exhilarating. Every day felt different! It is honestly such a special place and pretty early on in my foundation experience, I knew that I didn’t want to leave Camberwell and wanted to stay on for my BA.
Camberwell’s approach to illustration is unlike anywhere else I looked at, and the way the staff talk about illustration makes you feel like you could do almost anything with an illustration degree! Illustration at Camberwell is boundless and exciting and diverse. Coming to a Camberwell illustration degree show you’re likely to see everything from ceramics and installations, to books and paintings. I never felt limited or constricted to work in any one medium or to view illustration as being any one thing in particular.
What was your favourite thing about studying at Camberwell?
I grew up in South East London, so Camberwell College of Arts is somewhere that I frequently passed on the bus growing up – in that sense I always felt at home at Camberwell. There is a real sense of community amongst the students and tutors, and it really feels like a traditional art school – which I loved!
Also, being at Camberwell you feel like you are at the centre of a creative hub – both within the college and outside. There's loads going on locally.
As a recent graduate, what advice would you give to someone about to start at UAL?
Be a sponge! Take every opportunity thrown your way. Go to lectures. Go to visiting practitioner talks. Go to every crit, even if you dislike everything you’ve made so far for a project or feel you have ‘nothing’ to show – someone will always be able to offer you some great advice or give you an awesome reference to look at. Take risks – I really regret having left getting into ceramics until my final year! And don’t worry about loving everything you make, you won’t, but it’ll all make sense in the end (hopefully).
We absolutely LOVE your designs; what are your main inspirations?
My work is inspired massively by the things that I like to surround myself with – the kind of stuff that inhabits a shelf or a mantelpiece that makes me happy! I’m a huge lover and collector of kitsch – something I definitely inherited from my mum. Drawing from and being inspired by objects is super important to me, and all of the work I created in my final year was inspired by real objects that I discovered, from a sad-looking dog cookie jar I found in a charity shop to Victorian China Fairings (if you haven’t seen these before, look them up).
The ceramic rooms at the V&A are one of my favourite places to visit. If I ever feel uninspired, I spend a day up there! The floor-to-ceiling glass cabinets are filled with all sorts of ceramics from all over the world, I only wish I was a little taller so I could see some of the stuff higher up, I’m sure I’m missing out on some absolute gems!
How did you discover your interest in and talent for ceramics?
I have always worked a lot in 3D and in my final year, I was looking at and drawing a lot of objects for my research, so it made sense that I start making some objects of my own! My comfort zone was to make props or sculptures out of paper-mâché and cardboard, I spent a lot of second-year doing that, but I felt I needed to challenge myself and clay seemed the natural choice.
I did a short ceramics course in the summer before my BA to learn the basics because I knew that Camberwell had ceramic facilities and I was keen to make use of them during my studies. However, up until my third and final year I had always been too nervous to venture in the ceramic studio at Camberwell. I always got the impression that everyone in there was a pro and knew exactly what they were doing, and I felt so intimidated by that.
It took a push from my tutor to brave the ceramic studio and I committed to making a final piece from my interim show in ceramics – a series of dog head cookie jars to accompany a poem I had written entitled “I do not woof”. It felt like the right project at the right time, but not having much experience working with clay, it felt like a huge risk. But it is a risk I am glad I took because I used clay in every project after that one and by the end of the year I was in and out of the ceramic studio nearly every day. Now I cannot imagine my practice without ceramics in it! Clay is awesome, I just wish I’d realised it sooner!
You were also asked to speak at your graduation ceremony. How did you feel when you were chosen? And when you were thinking about what to say, what were your inspirations?
It was, of course, an honour to be considered, let alone chosen. There is only one student speaker at each ceremony – so I certainly felt the pressure. I was so worried about all the graduation clichés – “the best is yet to come” “your future starts today” - and it’s hard not to slip into those, so I made them part of my speech in the end.
When I was writing the speech, it was just after the degree show had come down, and there was a real sense that things were coming to an end. The question that I found I kept getting asked from family, friends, tutors, neighbours, strangers… was what was next for me? And honestly, the question terrified me and speaking to my friends it seemed to haunt them too. That’s the scary thing about graduating. You’ve experienced this incredibly intense three years of your life, and now it’s coming to an end and you’re suddenly supposed to have this grand plan when really you’re super tired and in need of a holiday. So, I wanted to keep my speech hopeful and remind everyone that it’s okay not to have a plan. A non-plan is a plan. My tutor gave me this great could-be motto to include: “we are unambiguous about ambiguity and certain of uncertainty” which I loved and seemed totally fitting!
What are you up to now? And what is next?
I am continuing to develop my ceramic practice; I have a studio space now, which is really great and means I have a space totally dedicated to clay. It’s fantastic to be able to work alongside other creatives again, you learn so much from each other and that is something I missed after graduating. Right now, I am making as much as possible – with lockdown I have been collaging loads, especially since I haven’t been able to get to my ceramic studio as frequently. If I’m not making something in clay then you will find me thinking up a new collage.
I am now represented by Snyder New York both here in the UK and over in the US, which is amazing! They are beyond awesome and I absolutely love working with them! I am working on some super fun projects at the moment, which I can’t wait to share! And I have been working on a new series of ceramic mantle dogs, which will be available very soon!