Detail of 'Galatea’s C***' © Rose Schmits

Porcelain, metal rods and bolts, wood

ca. 35 x 35 x 35 cm each

"This work explores the social and physical hardship endured in gender transition. These porcelain pieces, penetrated by metal rods, are meant to express the tough reality of transitioning. With my work I am both celebrating my own transition and shining light on the struggle trans people face in gaining control of their own bodies in a heteronormative society."

Student Spotlight: Rose Schmits, City & Guilds of London Art School
August 28, 2019
The next student to be featured in our Student Spotlight series is Rose Schmits, recipient of a £1,000 Undergraduate Prize awarded by ACS at the City & Guilds of London Art School in 2018.

Over the course of last year, ACS was able to partner with more institutions than ever before to award a record £30,000 in educational bursaries and prizes to students throughout the UK. The Student Spotlight series presents exclusive interviews with the beneficiaries of such prizes, helping to highlight the breadth and depth of creative talent today.

Find out more about Schmits' conceptual practice, and how the social and physical hardship of gender transition is explored through a recent focus on ceramics.


Q. How would you define your work in three words?


Queer, autobiographical and intricate.


Q. What does winning the ACS/City & Guilds of London Art School Undergraduate Prize mean for you as an artist?


Winning the ACS Undergraduate Prize has given me a tremendous sense of recognition as an artist. Until recently my work has never lent itself to being saleable, so an award like this came to me as a great confirmation that my art is appreciated and taken seriously. I have also struggled to afford materials which has limited my practice. I always found creative solutions but this award feels like a blessing to push my practice further.


The money will be well spent on materials for my work. Clay, glazes and everything necessary for more complex ceramic work. For example, I have been able to buy cobalt oxide to use in recreating the Delftware process, an expensive material I would have otherwise never bought.

This prize gives me the freedom to push my work further and use more intensive and experimental processes. Before my limited funds tended to curb my work, but now I can follow concepts through to a greater extent.


Detail of ‘Trans Forms’, 2019, © Rose Schmits
Earthenware ceramics (281 Vessels), vessels range from 14 to 50 cm in height, installation ca. 300 x 200 x 50 cm

Q. What medium do you mainly work with and why?


Ceramics has become central to my practice. My work has always been sculptural and the materials tend to follow from the concept I want to explore. Because of my exploration of my Delft heritage I have been drawn to ceramics, specifically Delftware-inspired ceramics.
As an artist that loves to work in three-dimensional space, manipulating the clay with my hands is very satisfying whilst perfectly fitting with the themes I talk about in my work.


Q. Where do you find most inspiration for your work?


Most of my work deals very directly with my personal past. The part of my life I explore most is my identity as a transgender woman. I use my art to investigate my relationship to this part of my identity whilst simultaneously hoping to inform the spectator of what it means to be trans.

I have applied various parts of my trans life experience to my art: my deliberately chosen name, gendered social dynamics and gender reassignment surgery. Besides my experiences as a trans woman, my experiences growing up in Delft, the Netherlands, plays a role in my work.
I look back at my life there and mainly see the hardship I went through. This leads me to use my art to process this complex relationship.
Installation view of ‘Trans Forms’, 2019, © Rose Schmits
Earthenware ceramics (281 Vessels), vessels range from 14 to 50 cm in height, installation ca. 300 x 200 x 50 cm

Q. Take us through your working process.


I tend to work from the concept up. I will come up with a concept I want to express and see what materials and imagery will suit it. Having become very comfortable using the medium of ceramics this familiarity now does come into play with what direction my work takes. I have become more comfortable letting the materials lead my practice, but I am still first and foremost a conceptual artist.


Q. Can you remember the first work of art that you created? What was it and why was it so memorable?


As a child I was always making things and using all my spare time to learn all sorts of new ways of making and expressing myself. This then became a more serious art practice in school, so the progression from childish creativity to ‘art’ was a gradual one.


We are delighted to announce that following her success with the ACS Undergraduate Prize, Schmits has been shortlisted for the British Ceramics Biennial FRESH 2019. Her work will be on display during this year's Biennial in Stoke-on-Trent between 7 September - 13 October 2019.