Gaelin Craighead received a BFA from Louisiana Tech University in 2013. She is now in her third year at Florida State University working toward her MFA in Studio Art. Gaelin's website: http://www.gaelin-craighead.com/
Tell us about your work.
In my work I use repetitive sewing techniques that allow me to reflect on my personal history and spirituality. This process serves as an avenue for spiritual meditation, through which I create visuals that are loosely narrative. I work in techniques such as weaving, embroidery and fabric collage, incorporating a variety of found materials and fibers.
What were the major reasons you decided to attend an MFA program?
I decided to get an MFA because I would like to teach art at the college level. I also wanted the opportunity to develop my artistic practice even further.
What were the major factors that led you to choose the MFA program you’re currently attending?
I chose Florida State because my program offers assistantships to cover tuition – that was a major draw for me. Tuition is paid in exchange for working as a lab monitor or teaching foundations courses.
What is your best piece of advice for applicants when choosing a program?
I would advise applicants that if they are about to attend an institution that will cause them to take out immense loans, to be aware of that reality and what it entails. I caution them not to overlook some of the less popular MFA programs that might offer assistance to them. You can make your artwork all over the country, it just depends where you want to be situated.Describe a typical day in your life as an MFA student.
My day usually starts with working in the sculpture lab as a part of my assistantship or teaching 3D Foundations. That is followed by time in the studio working on my current projects or researching and writing about my practice. After quite a few hours, it’s time for dinner. Usually I head home and either do my homework, grade my students’ work, or work on small weavings on the couch.
What do you enjoy most about being an MFA student? What is your greatest struggle?
I most enjoy not having to worry about maintaining a full-time job – the chance to focus on my artistic practice for three entire years is one that cannot be matched. Sometimes I struggle with getting caught in a routine. You have to remember to question and challenge yourself in your work – it’s what makes you a better artist.
What is your best piece of financial advice for potential and/or current MFA students?
Try to find a school that fits your needs as an artist and also provides funding. But, if you have to take out loans, don’t take out more than you need just so that you can live nicely. If you need more finances for your practice – for example, if you have an expensive medium – apply for grants or look for other resources. Imagine yourself post-MFA: The amount of stress you would be under financially if you had taken out large loans, or how it would be to live simply, with just the basics, without a lot of debt. I would gladly take the second option.
What are your career plans following grad school? How do you feel your degree has helped facilitate your plans?
I plan on looking for college-level teaching jobs as well as opportunities to show my work in galleries or other institutions. I am also looking into artist residency programs after graduation. I think my MFA will help me to advance in my career and has prepared me to apply for jobs or galleries without being fearful.
Is there anything else you’d like to add to assist prospective and current MFA students?
Don’t let anyone tell you what your artwork is about – it’s your work, so stand up for yourself and be confident about what you’re making. Take grad school seriously – wherever you’re accepted, remember that they didn’t have to choose you, so be grateful for the opportunity and get some work done! It’s going to be really hard and you will probably want to quit a few times, but stick it out because it’s worth it and you’ll come out on the other side a better artist.