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Life after Chelsea: Neha Rao – MA Textile Design


Written by
Frances Bailey
Published date
08 August 2018

In the lead up to our 2018 MA Summer Show opening on 7 September, we’re catching up with some of our postgraduate alumni to find out what they have been up to since graduating.

Neha Rao graduated from MA Textile Design in 2017 and is currently living in her hometown Mumbai, India. Neha tells us about how her time at Chelsea gave her wings to fly and revolutionised her practice.

black and white patterned material

Describe your time at Chelsea in 3 words

Insightful, Progressive, Warm

A pile of grey and black coal

What have you been working on since graduating?

After completing my postgraduate studies in London. I started consulting on projects that lasted for six months, where I headed the product development with Reciprocal Ventures, a UK based start-up. I worked on the initial concepts for an innovative range of sustainable belts, which also included helping implement sustainable practices from the choice of material, system design, packaging, shaping the brand ideology and more. The other short projects included developing a range of prints for a UK based swimwear brand Lucana.

I was a part of designing and managing an exhibition at Story of Space, a design and art festival in Goa, India, which is held in the month of November every year. I have continued to work on my final degree show project ‘Soot’ back in India in parallel with these projects.

the female artist holding up her fabric prints.

What work/projects/exhibitions have you got coming up?

I have a couple of collaborations with brands and designers happening and I am currently working with a  fellow designer on a submission for an artist grant. I am now expanding and diversifying the application of this colourant made from industrial waste from fabric to paper.

How did your time at Chelsea push your practice? 

At Chelsea, I felt liberated it gave me wings to fly. I got that required exposure my career needed, this also helped me grow my network. It made me very independent. It has been a life-altering experience. My perception of design and sustainability has changed a lot. It has moved from aesthetics towards core concepts and innovative development.

two female models wearing black and white patterned t-shirts

What was unique about studying at Chelsea College of Arts?

Working in the studio spaces and experimenting in the different textile and material workshops were the most enjoyable experiences at Chelsea as they stimulated my artistic and creative mind. The spaces allow time with oneself to help find your inner voice.

The main college building is very picturesque. The people are very warm and welcoming, and the staff at Chelsea are very helpful and co-operative. Interaction with peers helped me to look at my project with a different perspective as well as my exposure to a wide variety of different projects.

What was the most valuable thing you learned on the course?

The beauty of this course is that it teaches you more about yourself than you ever thought was possible. I couldn’t be more thankful. Beyond critical thinking and further learning on writing and reading research articles, I’ve learned to know where to look for knowledge and connect with people.

A woman modelling a long purple dress against a yellow wall.

What advice would you give to our graduating students?

Soak in every second of these crazy, amazing, and enriching year. I would advise them to think of what they wish to achieve by undertaking the course. As it is very much self-directed, one should be able to manage work and time. Textile design is a skill-orientated discipline so having a basic understanding of techniques is important. Chelsea staff help every student to achieve their full potential, so my advice to the newcomer’s is “work hard”.

someone holding a white polka dot cushion

How has your practice developed since graduating?

Post MA Textile Design at Chelsea, I have worked as a freelancer and consultant for projects and developed my own start-up ‘Soot’. My thesis project was ‘SOOT’. I innovated a new form a colourant from a source of industrial waste by-product through exploring the colouring properties of the waste source, applying science, innovation, art and design to it in order to make a sustainable end product. Soot is a small venture at the moment where products old and new are printed with an innovative colorant.

Check out Neha’s SOOT project 

Come along to this year’s MA summer show

Read more about MA Textile Design