Swansea based Learner Julie Colbran finds hope and a new sense of direction through ALW’s Art & Craft Provision | Adult Learning Wales

Swansea based Learner Julie Colbran finds hope and a new sense of direction through ALW’s Art & Craft Provision

19-March-2024
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Originally from the Rhondda Valleys, Julie had a tough upbringing, being non-verbal for the first 10 years of her life and facing the difficulties of growing up through school and not being able to communicate in the classroom. Julie found solace through the creative arts at an early age. 

“I had a rich inner world and didn’t want to participate in the outer world. I had everything I needed inside my head and just wanted to be left alone. As soon as I was able to hold a pencil, I was able to draw pictures. I was able to read at an early age and loved listening to music. That was all I ever wanted to do. Life was hard, and I felt as if I was an alien trying to fit in on this strange planet.”  

Julie went to a secondary modern school. Because of her communication difficulties, it was decided at the time that it was best for Julie not to take the Eleven Plus exams. Her education was minimal and included basic English and Arithmetic. She found it hard to learn in a classroom with forty or so pupils and she found the noisy environment tough, as she could not make out what the teacher was saying. She left school at fifteen with no qualifications and worked in a factory for seven years. 

After an exceedingly difficult period in her home life, Julie reached out to Women’s Aid who supported her in being able to change her life and encouraged her to take up new opportunities.

“Plucking up the courage to phone Women’s Aid was the best thing that I ever did. They relocated me and my children to another area and gave us the chance to have a new beginning. I will always be grateful to the wonderful women who run the refuges. I was so happy that my children and I were safe, although it did take a long time to heal from the trauma we suffered. I enrolled in adult education and had some wonderful teachers in small classrooms who helped me. I eventually gained a handful of GCSEs and a couple of A levels. I enrolled at Swansea College of Art, did a foundation course in Art and Design, and then completed a HND in Ceramics.” 

During this time, Julie and her two sons were diagnosed with autism which came as a relief as it helped explain why she had found life around her so hard from such an early age. It changed the course of her family’s lives and Julie embraced it while growing in confidence; she now wanted to learn about herself, put all her energy into developing her natural talent that she was born with, but never had the chance to nurture.  

In January 2023, Julie moved to Swansea and started looking for art and craft groups. She attended a few and enjoyed them, but the course recommended to her by a friend was the one that really stood out.  

“I was lucky enough to hear about the course with Adult Learning Wales from a friend. This has turned out to be a real gift and with Rachel’s (tutor) energy and enthusiasm, I have been pulled out of my comfort zone and have created work I would never have thought of. I realise my love of textile art and has been directed. With Rachel’s encouragement, I applied to do the degree at UWSTD, was interviewed and duly accepted.” 

The course itself it is a BA Honours through the University of Wales Trinity Saint David, and Julie will be studying part-time over a six-year period, starting in September 2024. It is a “multi-disciplinary programme” that focuses on exploration of textiles, materiality, pattern and making in the context of fashion, interiors and for design led galleries. It also creates opportunities for to work with well-known companies such as H&M, M&S and Rolls Royce. 

This stepping stone to degree level would not have been possible without the support of ALW and tutor Rachel.  

“The course I have been doing with ALW has helped me to explore various methods of textile design, methods of needlework, which include applique and embroidery, techniques for transferring designs onto fabrics as well as using a variety of experimental mark making methods.

I have also worked in collaboration with other learners, which encourages teamwork. I use a sketchbook as a method of research and keep a record of the design processes we have used and how it helps develop our finished work. All of these processes help to prepare us for a higher level of study. Also, the discipline of keeping deadlines and to become accustomed to the discipline of study.” 

Georgia Mckie, MA(RCA), SFHEA, Programme Manager BA(Hons) and MDes(Hons) Surface Pattern and Textiles for University of Wales Trinity Saint David on Julie’s achievements:

“One of UWTSD’s key values is making Higher Education inclusive by removing barriers to participation and supporting people from a breadth of starting points and experiences, whether that includes previous formal education or not. In BA(Hons) Surface Pattern and Textiles we welcome diversity, and our adult learners’ unique experiences and viewpoints really add value to the overall cohort’s experience.   

We are so pleased to be able to welcome Julie to BA(Hons) Surface Pattern and Textiles this Autumn. She is already an accomplished maker and is showing all the creative openness and enthusiasm that is required to thrive on our multidisciplinary programme. We look forward to seeing her settle in and enjoy the opportunities that will be available to her here.”   

The impact of learning with ALW has been positive on Julie’s life, not just in the classroom with her progression to taking on a degree, but the new friendships made and an improvement in her wellbeing. 

“I have got to know so may lovely women at the classes and have made new friends. My mental health has improved so much, I love going to the class, it has given me a real purpose in life, and I want to grow my creativity and do the best work in my life.” 

Julie’s story is truly inspiring and heartwarming. Even through the most difficult of times and with facing enormous challenges in her life from such an early age, Julie has never given up and her determination to achieve shines through. She has turned her passion into a skill which has created new and growing opportunities for her. We wish Julie all the best with her continued studies, and we look forward to seeing you in the classroom soon.  

If Julie’s story has inspired you or you would like to find out more about studying Art & Craft with ALW, not just in Swansea but across Wales you can find out more here: www.adultlearning.wales/en/community-courses-landing/art-craft-and-design 

 

 

 



Originally from the Rhondda Valleys, Julie had a tough upbringing, being non-verbal for the first 10 years of her life and facing the difficulties of growing up through school and not being able to communicate in the classroom. Julie found solace through the creative arts at an early age. 

“I had a rich inner world and didn’t want to participate in the outer world. I had everything I needed inside my head and just wanted to be left alone. As soon as I was able to hold a pencil, I was able to draw pictures. I was able to read at an early age and loved listening to music. That was all I ever wanted to do. Life was hard, and I felt as if I was an alien trying to fit in on this strange planet.”  

Julie went to a secondary modern school. Because of her communication difficulties, it was decided at the time that it was best for Julie not to take the Eleven Plus exams. Her education was minimal and included basic English and Arithmetic. She found it hard to learn in a classroom with forty or so pupils and she found the noisy environment tough, as she could not make out what the teacher was saying. She left school at fifteen with no qualifications and worked in a factory for seven years. 

After an exceedingly difficult period in her home life, Julie reached out to Women’s Aid who supported her in being able to change her life and encouraged her to take up new opportunities.

“Plucking up the courage to phone Women’s Aid was the best thing that I ever did. They relocated me and my children to another area and gave us the chance to have a new beginning. I will always be grateful to the wonderful women who run the refuges. I was so happy that my children and I were safe, although it did take a long time to heal from the trauma we suffered. I enrolled in adult education and had some wonderful teachers in small classrooms who helped me. I eventually gained a handful of GCSEs and a couple of A levels. I enrolled at Swansea College of Art, did a foundation course in Art and Design, and then completed a HND in Ceramics.” 

During this time, Julie and her two sons were diagnosed with autism which came as a relief as it helped explain why she had found life around her so hard from such an early age. It changed the course of her family’s lives and Julie embraced it while growing in confidence; she now wanted to learn about herself, put all her energy into developing her natural talent that she was born with, but never had the chance to nurture.  

In January 2023, Julie moved to Swansea and started looking for art and craft groups. She attended a few and enjoyed them, but the course recommended to her by a friend was the one that really stood out.  

“I was lucky enough to hear about the course with Adult Learning Wales from a friend. This has turned out to be a real gift and with Rachel’s (tutor) energy and enthusiasm, I have been pulled out of my comfort zone and have created work I would never have thought of. I realise my love of textile art and has been directed. With Rachel’s encouragement, I applied to do the degree at UWSTD, was interviewed and duly accepted.” 

The course itself it is a BA Honours through the University of Wales Trinity Saint David, and Julie will be studying part-time over a six-year period, starting in September 2024. It is a "multi-disciplinary programme” that focuses on exploration of textiles, materiality, pattern and making in the context of fashion, interiors and for design led galleries. It also creates opportunities for to work with well-known companies such as H&M, M&S and Rolls Royce. 

This stepping stone to degree level would not have been possible without the support of ALW and tutor Rachel.  

“The course I have been doing with ALW has helped me to explore various methods of textile design, methods of needlework, which include applique and embroidery, techniques for transferring designs onto fabrics as well as using a variety of experimental mark making methods.

I have also worked in collaboration with other learners, which encourages teamwork. I use a sketchbook as a method of research and keep a record of the design processes we have used and how it helps develop our finished work. All of these processes help to prepare us for a higher level of study. Also, the discipline of keeping deadlines and to become accustomed to the discipline of study.” 

Georgia Mckie, MA(RCA), SFHEA, Programme Manager BA(Hons) and MDes(Hons) Surface Pattern and Textiles for University of Wales Trinity Saint David on Julie’s achievements:

“One of UWTSD’s key values is making Higher Education inclusive by removing barriers to participation and supporting people from a breadth of starting points and experiences, whether that includes previous formal education or not. In BA(Hons) Surface Pattern and Textiles we welcome diversity, and our adult learners’ unique experiences and viewpoints really add value to the overall cohort’s experience.   

We are so pleased to be able to welcome Julie to BA(Hons) Surface Pattern and Textiles this Autumn. She is already an accomplished maker and is showing all the creative openness and enthusiasm that is required to thrive on our multidisciplinary programme. We look forward to seeing her settle in and enjoy the opportunities that will be available to her here.”   

The impact of learning with ALW has been positive on Julie’s life, not just in the classroom with her progression to taking on a degree, but the new friendships made and an improvement in her wellbeing. 

“I have got to know so may lovely women at the classes and have made new friends. My mental health has improved so much, I love going to the class, it has given me a real purpose in life, and I want to grow my creativity and do the best work in my life.” 

Julie’s story is truly inspiring and heartwarming. Even through the most difficult of times and with facing enormous challenges in her life from such an early age, Julie has never given up and her determination to achieve shines through. She has turned her passion into a skill which has created new and growing opportunities for her. We wish Julie all the best with her continued studies, and we look forward to seeing you in the classroom soon.  

If Julie’s story has inspired you or you would like to find out more about studying Art & Craft with ALW, not just in Swansea but across Wales you can find out more here: www.adultlearning.wales/en/community-courses-landing/art-craft-and-design 

 

 

 

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