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In 2003 Ashley graduated from the Royal College of Art, having taken time out from his career as a maker and lecturer to study for a Masters degree. On the face of it, this decision could be seen as something of an indulgence, but in fact the decision to re-enter education as a mature student demanded a good deal of courage. Several times he encountered impasses he believed he could not negotiate, but ultimately he realised that these were the reasons he was at the RCA. The solution was simply to rise to the challenges which had been set by his tutors as a way in to new areas of work and, more importantly, new ways of thinking.
Reflecting on his time at the RCA, Howard is satisfied that he achieved his primary goals. His previous development as an artist was shaped by the materials and techniques of his craft, and by its historical forms and social precedents. His studies, however, have provoked questions which will occupy him for the foreseeable future. One notable area of development was his virtual abandonment of technically-related literature: he found his way forward by exploring other creative fields including painting, music and literature, a development in thought that has served to locate him and his work in a wider cultural context.
Though Howard's earlier experience provided the framework for a series of experiments with glaze and clay, he has moved from close material enquiry towards a deeper exploration of more diverse practices and relationships: from surface to structure, from a given language of forms to alternative contexts. He now intends to extend his critical framework by exploring and developing new criteria.
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