Dan: Not in this for the piece of paper or the fancy title*

Dan Elborne is a ceramic artist currently based in Toowoomba, Queensland.  Dan completed his Bachelor of Creative Arts with first class honours and is currently undertaking a Doctorate of Philosophy (PhD) focused on his art practice.

Wanting to change careers, but certainty is holding you back? Nick reveals 3 unspoken truths he learned when taking the leap of faith down a new career.

I was one of those kids in high school who was encouraged to leave early and get a trade. I hated school and guess my ‘present without being present’ attitude and undying commitment to video games above all justifies that advice.

Beyond year 12, I bounced between an array of prospective careers: working as a baker, a jewellery technician/watchmaker, flour miller in the organic food industry and as a trained infantry soldier in the Army Reserve. Needless to say, I had no idea what I wanted to do.

One constant through all that change was a passion for drawing and a small interest in one day developing those skills. After some encouragement from my roommates at the time (who were going through creative arts degrees at USQ), I decided to make a serious change and go to Uni.

Studio shot in Iceland, photography by Deanna Ng 

Studio shot in Iceland, photography by Deanna Ng

Initially, I was quite hesitant and nervous to make a change like this. The prospect of being thrown into classes where I didn’t know anyone, and would be among people who already knew how to paint, sculpt and screen-print was daunting. I didn’t know much about artists or art history and didn’t know how to structure an essay or report of any kind. This all fell to the wayside quickly as I realised most of us were in a similar, nervous position. I learnt to ask those “stupid” questions, trying to get everything I could out of my courses. Soon after starting my undergraduate degree, I felt comfortable and purposeful.

One Drop of Blood, photography by Ben Tupas 

One Drop of Blood, photography by Ben Tupas

From 2011 to 2014 I studied a Bachelor of Creative Arts degree with honours. Through my study, I discovered ceramics and quickly developed an art practice focusing on clay as my working material. During that time, I got the opportunity to exhibit in several parts of Australia, collaborate with some great Australian artists and work on personally significant, large-scale projects that were received well by the broader artistic community.

Partially supported by a travelling scholarship awarded to me through USQ, I then had the opportunity to spend the past twelve months travelling Europe and the UK completing artist residencies and exhibitions throughout France, Iceland and Denmark, working in an art gallery in Wales and teaching contemporary ceramic techniques to a class of French sculptors. Thanks to this, my work has now, and continues to be, exhibited and published in many parts of the world. My pieces also belong to several private and gallery collections in Australia and abroad.

Cans collaboration with Ian McCallum, photography by Hannah Roche 

Cans collaboration with Ian McCallum, photography by Hannah Roche

I’ve now come home having started a doctorate (PhD), which I see as the best way to continue to establish myself as a professional artist. The critical engagement, encouragement, support and inspiration I receive from the lecturers here (who are all practicing artists) made my choice to do post-graduate study an easy one. Going to USQ isn’t about the qualification for me; it’s about the experiences it affords me. To move forward with my work and keep challenging myself, this place and the people in it are ideal.

At this point, I honestly can’t imagine doing anything else. To think back five years when I broke everything down and realised doing little drawings was the thing I enjoyed most, I’m so glad I recognised that passion and chased it. I hate to imagine, and who the hell knows what I’d be doing otherwise.

*As a small confession, in the title of this blog it says I’m ‘not in this for the fancy title.’  That’s not entirely true… Having the name Daniel Robert Elborne means that when I complete my PhD, my initials will be Dr DRE. I’m actually pretty stoked about that.

It can be daunting weighing up whether university is the right decision. If you are unsure you are making the correct choice, find out why university is worth it.


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