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Working in the Vulvarium Studio (Austria)

Ella Clancy, BA Design student, received funding towards her work placement at the Vulvarium.

How did you source your placement? 

I followed Vulvarium on Instagram. I was super interested in their work and kept sliding into their DMs asking questions about their work as well as for internship opportunities. Viki, behind the account, replied to my questions and we had a good back and forth however it was always a ‘no’ to any internship enquiries. However, after gaining the grant from Santander, I managed to convince the Vulvarium Studio it was a great idea to take me on. Which of course it was.  

What were the highlights of your experience abroad?  

There were so many highlights to my experience abroad, the first one that springs to mind was what a pleasure it was making new friends. They each wanted to show me their favourite spots and homes, they took me on gorgeous hikes in the mountains and shared their rock-climbing kit with me as well as crazy queer raves that only the locals would know. These girls are now my friends for life, we talk on a weekly basis and they have already visited me in London for my birthday. I hope to meet them again next summer, and the summer after that… Another massive highlight was that I was able to learn skills I otherwise wouldn’t have had the chance or the time for. As well as learn about subject areas I wouldn’t have touched upon at university. I learned so much about each woman I worked with predominantly about her relationship with her vulva and body. These kinds of conversations are something I am sure I would have never ever had without this internship and now it is like as second nature to me.

What was your daily routine and how did it differ from being at home?  

The city where I was based, Graz, much smaller than London. I would argue Graz is built to human scale so I loved that I could cycle everywhere and when it was storming, I would take the tram. My workday would start on my bike. Once I arrived at the studio which took about 25 minutes, I would put on my overalls and sculpt, shape, sand, package, and colour vulva statues with the studio speakers blaring if I was alone or talking to the other studio members until the early evening. I would then cycle home/ to the park/ a pool/ a market/a friend’s. If it was a casting day I would try to rest alone beforehand, so I had emotional energy for the session. I would meet them at Viki’s home usually early afternoon, give them a drink, show them images from books about vulvas, discuss and push whatever they wanted to talk about as well as always keeping the conversation on the vulva. I would then cast them with alginate, keep the alginate wet with a wet paper towel until we were finished talking with all questions answered, then say goodbye. I would then pour plaster over the mould as leave for a few days until dry until it was ready to pop out and bring with me to the studio. 

What were your top challenges while abroad?  

I am a very independent person who has no trouble being alone, lost, abroad etc, I quite enjoy it. What I did find difficult however was how much everything cost. Basic food from a supermarket was triple the price of what I would pay in London so I had to reassess what I spent my money on and how to budget. I found because I was only abroad with my internship for 6 weeks I wanted to make the most out of my time and it was a challenge for me to slow down, stop and rest, be alone, or stay in bed. I learned over the weeks how to incorporate rest time and alone time into my life balance. 

What did you gain from your experience abroad?  

I gained a lot of confidence in my experience abroad, I learned what starting out as an art and education studio looks like, how to be a real team, and how to work in a way that suits you and your studio. I gained a lot of contacts in my areas of interest, professionally and personally. I feel I have a great team behind me if I need help or have questions about my interests as a designer and feminist. And of course I gained a lot of making skills, I did not know how to cast or finish statues etc and now I will never forget. 

What are your top tips for students about to go abroad?  

Make the most of it. Buy a guidebook. Go on dates. Rent a bike. Put yourself out there. Say yes to all the work opportunities. Get involved in the community. Don’t take any shit. Keep a diary.