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Student Stories: Sarah Skinner

Sarah Skinner is an artist and creative upholsterer based in Derbyshire. She recently completed Photography as Language, one of OCA’s short courses. Find out more about short courses here.

Here Sarah tells us about her learning journey.


What is your previous educational experiences and what drew you to OCA?

I studied Art History at University of Manchester as a ‘mature’ student - I was 29! I then gained an MA in Heritage Management and worked my way into a career in museums and art galleries. And then I accidentally fell out of that pathway and couldn’t get back in! I began to take classes in Upholstery, firstly informal leisure classes and then studying for and gaining a City and Guilds qualification, eventually taking my new skills seriously enough to take on a studio in Derby. Being trained to use Instagram to promote my business re-ignited my interest in photography generally. I completed the OU/RPS Introduction to Photography (TG089) course and enjoyed it but wasn’t ready to commit to a genre at the next level! Instead the OCA Language of Photography Course appealed to me and it proved just perfect as a stage to develop my thinking as a photographer and a viewer of photographs.

Can you describe your OCA journey?

The Language of Photography is a 10 week course and I knew I would want to commit fully to it. I was on holiday in Finland for the first two Zoom meetings but I knew it would be an inspiring new place to take/make and think about photographs - and actually it was a really good and very memorable way to begin a course.

What was the Tutor and/or Peer Support like on your course?

Ariadne Xenou was the course leader and she was so knowledgeable, so interesting and inspiring, I was really impressed with her level of commitment to us as a group. The course material was fantastic, so coherent, curated, I soon learned that ‘everything matters’! The theoretical side of the course surprised me by being easy to read and put into practice while still expanding my mind.

What does studying with OCA mean to you?

I wanted to improve my photography skills, I wanted to be challenged, I wanted to meet other people on a similar photography-focused journey: the course delivered! What I didn’t expect was to be so intellectually stimulated by photography. I definitely look at and take/make photographs much more carefully now.

What's next?

I’m not sure what next! One of the reasons for developing my skills and thinking around photography is to improve the photographs I take of my own work as both art and product. I really enjoy learning, being challenged, being stimulated to think critically. I think the OCA course and Ariadne’s encouragement in particular has made me realise I can be a good photographer, we all have our own way of seeing.

Any advice?

I think the main thing is to go into any course ready to commit the time to it, for me it was something I wanted to do and was ready to invest in it.

Where can we find you?

I post photographs on Instagram @sarahsphotosetc and also @artchairs I have a website: and I do have a blog page focused on chairs

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