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Life At Chelsea: Sarah Willmott – MA Graphic Design Communication


Written by
Gavin Freeborn
Published date
28 August 2018

Sarah Willmott, MA Graphic Design Communication student is next in the series to talk with us about her life at Chelsea, her practice and MA Summer Show project Reflective Voices focusing on Sarah’s passion for feminism and the power of the voice.

“During my time on MA Graphic Design Communication my practice has developed and become more complex in relation to the subject matter I focused on. For my MA Summer Show I created a Sew & Tell pop up event, including a documentary and physical outputs.

“My practice influences stem from the women’s rights movement and the aim for equality. Inspiration comes from artists such as Jo SpenceCindy Sherman and Linda Brothwell.

A jean jacket with a badge on it saying

“For the show, I chose to focus on my current Reflective Voices project as I am passionate about feminism and the power of the voice. The project started around the legalities of upskirting, which at the time I started my research was still legal in certain circumstances. During the project, upskirting became illegal through Gina Martin taking it to parliament.

“The labels started around this topic and mentioned statements about lengths of skirts, acting as the agency for voice between the woman and her garment. Like an instruction to self before entering a situation.

A woman sticking a sign to a shop window.

“At this point artists such as Jo Spence and Cindy Sherman inspired my work. I was inspired by Jo Spence’s use of camera angles and photography style she used to visualise the stories of the women as well as the complex topics the project aimed to challenge.

“Inspiration from Cindy Sherman’s work helped give my project a sense of character, with seamstresses acting out how woman would have sewn in tailors in the past, including re-enacting a tailor’s set up in a vintage shop to also created an atmosphere for women to experience when they entered the shop.

Someone sewing a tag into the back of a jumper.

“As the project developed further the labels adapted to different topics women face daily generally, such as the gender pay gap, sexism in the work place and harassment. The words also adapted more to a situation rather than the garment, with statements on them such as ‘Don’t Protect me. Respect Me’, ‘Power is a Secret Weapon’ and ‘Fancy a Dance?’.

“These statements were more diverse. The concept to re-create the pop up live sewing event I held during the Interim Show but in a set location. I chose Margate, a town near me which is currently in a transition where more woman are opening businesses and also a place with a strong sense of womanhood. The event was held in a small vintage shop sitting subtly in the corner for women to come in and receive a label with their vintage find or the clothing they were wearing.

Someone holding a piece of clothing, with a tag sewn into it.

“The project was then documented video and shared on Vimeo and Instagram for the continuous work and interactions of the woman who participated. The idea was that the women would tag a post and write about how living with their label had provoked a memory or story to share with the social community. This gave the project some unexpected and interesting stories to allow the user and viewers to gain insights into the lives of others.

“Chelsea’s workshops provided my practice with the tools and the studio environment created a buzzing learning hub for me to work alongside others on my course – a place where ideas can bounce off one another.

“During my time at Chelsea I have also worked freelance for companies in Kent, whilst at the same time expanding my network at events and with fellow students.

“I commuted from Kent every day, though I enjoyed the inspiration around me in London as well as while working in the studio spaces and workshops.

A green shirt with a tag sewn into it saying

“After completing MA Graphic Design Communication I aim to work for a creative agency which shares my ethics, morals and values as these are important when I am designing things.

“For anyone thinking of studying MA Graphic Design Communication I would say, keep focused and have a goal from the start. The stronger the focus the stronger the energy into projects, remembering that your work can always be adapted, and it usually works out better.

“Personally, I’m proud to be a Chelsea student because of all the Chelsea students who have come before me and left achieving so much.

A woman holding a pink net shopping bag.

“Right now, I am wrapping up a successful Kickstarter fundraiser for my patch campaign, which will support me in making the patches . I am also working on various freelance jobs for companies.

“My Chelsea experience in 3 words? Inspiring, Engaging and Fun”

See more work on Sarah’s website and Project Reflective Voices Instagram

Find out more about MA Graphic Design Communication

Come see Sarah’s work and the rest of our graduating students at our MA Summer Show

Can’t make it to the show? Check out our students work on

A piece of paper explaining the ethos of the pop up shop.