Portrait of Poppy standing outside.

Poppy Jones-Little

Please tell us a bit about yourself and your background?

I was born in Cornwall, but spent most of my childhood in the East Midlands before moving up to Leeds. I grew up as a young carer, and as I was the first in my family to go to university, so I didn’t know what to expect! Art has always been a constant in my life and this was only enhanced further during my studies at Leeds - my art practice became research-based, but I’ve never lost my love of sculpture, objects and lump-like things!

What have you been doing since finishing your studies?

Graduating at the very beginning of the pandemic meant that my initial post-uni experience wasn’t what I had anticipated. Nonetheless, I was very lucky to have been the recipient of a few awards which allowed me to continue to create artwork from home. I took part in numerous virtual exhibitions, publications and collaborations, including a virtual residency with the Wysing Arts Centre through which I completed a Gold Arts Award. With the support of my tutors at Leeds, I applied for a masters degree (MFA) at the Ruskin School of Art, University of Oxford, and graduated last year with a Distinction. During this 9 month course I also completed a web accessibility internship at TORCH Oxford, and worked with the Swan Youth Project to design a new website to showcase the charity’s brilliant work.

What are you doing in terms of your career at the moment?

Soon after graduating from my MFA in 2022, I began working at Exact Editions, a publisher services company. It has felt like a full circle moment to be part of a company that works closely with the iconic art and culture magazines that I read throughout my degrees – Aesthetica, ArtMonthly, Neutral, amongst many more. I am part of the marketing and institutions team, and I love how varied my role is. A highlight is speaking with librarians at various universities and public libraries to gain a better understanding of how digital resources are accessed and used.

Which experiences at Leeds do you think have helped with your career?

With every exhibition held as part of my degree, there was always an immense amount of planning, liaising, marketing and networking needed to make the opening night a success. While often at a small scale, the experience of managing these events provided me with a great foundational knowledge. The career centre and libraries also held a range of brilliant events; I fondly remember a workshop focused on the importance of digitising and archiving material correctly - I now work with digital magazine archives!

Why did you choose to study your course at the University of Leeds?

While I did consider history and english literature courses during my first year of sixth form, I always knew that art was the right choice for me. The course at Leeds was perfect as the 50/50 split between written modules and practical studio work meant that I could maintain my interest in cultural theory, literature, art history, philosophy etc. while also applying this theory in the studio and workshops - a win-win! I also found the city so welcoming and warm, I couldn’t imagine a better city to have completed my undergraduate degree in.

What aspects of the course did you enjoy the most?

I will never forget the weekly crits - a chance to display new work, engage in debate and speak through uncertainties in a really candid way with both tutors and peers. The studio module is also very self-directed, which was perfect as this provided me with the time andspace to develop a generative art practice. I also vividly remember the three written modules I chose during my second year - Postcolonial Critique, The State of Utopia and Showing Asia. Each module was exceptional, I still find myself flicking through the recommended texts to this day!

Did you work closely with a particular tutor or member of the University’s academic staff?

In 2016, my first year at Leeds, I remember being allocated a studio tutor and not knowing how to best use the tutorial sessions, worrying that I might embarrass myself. Fast-forward to February 2020, the same studio tutor was sitting and watching intently as I earnestly rearranged a retro telephone table in my studio, deep in thought about material constitution. I will forever be indebted to Richard Bell for his generosity, the small pockets of time that made up the studio tutorials continue to shape how I think about my art practice. (And I now also no longer care about embarrassing myself).

What activities outside of your studies were you involved in?

I always enjoyed the events run by the LUU Art Society, MAGS (Museum and Art Gallery Society) and CAS (Collaborative Arts Society). I was also nominated to be a member of LEAP, (Leeds Excellence in the Arts Programme) in my second year. The programme was incredibly nurturing, providing skills sessions, career insights and also subject-specific workshops which
fed into my studies. Through LEAP I also took part in the Undergraduate Research Experience, presenting my research into lumps and their ‘Lumphood’ in 2018; I continued this line of research in my MFA!

Study abroad 

For my study abroad year, I studied in Dresden, the capital city of Saxony in Germany, at the brilliant Hochschule für Bildende Künste.

The studio spaces and facilities were great, I was able to explore paper making, ceramics, and book binding all within a few weeks. I was also very lucky to have studied alongside several other Erasmus+ students from across Europe; we organised a few exhibitions together during our time there, and I am still in contact with many of them now. Outside of the university, Dresden has great transport links to Prague, Budapest, Wroclaw and more, meaning I could see a lot of inspirational art by just hopping on a bus. I also lived a stone’s throw from the Elbe river - not a day passed without me taking a stroll along the banks, dreamy!

Do you have any advice for students considering taking a study abroad year?

I learnt a lot of resilience during the year abroad, there were certainly moments of overwhelm and doubt, but when things were a bit tough, I dug out some strength I didn’t know I had. If you want to apply but are wary of the challenges that come with living abroad, I think that you’ll be surprised by just how well you adjust and overcome - it was one of my most formative experiences to date.

What would you say to students thinking about studying your course?

I couldn't recommend it enough! I would suggest using the university’s open days as an opportunity to speak with members of staff and current students - don’t be afraid to ask any questions you may have.