Meet Polly Macpherson

Associate Head in the School of Art, Design and Architecture

  • Associate Professor of Design at the University of Plymouth and Award Leader for the Designer Maker pathway in BA (Hons) 3D Design.

  • Associate Head of School – Enterprise.

  • Automation Academic Research Fellow with South West Creative Technology Network.

  • Judge for BBC Women’s Hour, Kirstie’s Celebrity Craft Masters, Crafts Council and V&A Arts Prize.

  • Advance HE Aurora role model for women.

  • International adventure seeker.

Polly Macpherson

Polly named as judge on C4’s new show

Polly Macpherson is one of two judges on Kirstie’s Celebrity Craft Masters. Due to air from 1 July, each day will see celebrities go head to head to win Kirstie’s craft trophy after a day with a professional craftsperson who will teach them to make three items. Polly said:

“People enjoy the physical process of making things. The excitement of being able to take a lump of clay, for example, and make a pot out of it – and to say, ‘I did that!’ With life being very digitalised now, physically making something is great for mental health and that feeling of achievement whatever the level of craftsmanship.”

Learn more about Polly's role on the show

Polly answers some quick-fire questions

What do you do and what motivates you to do it?

I do a lot of ‘things’, however I have the academic titles of Associate Professor in Design, Award Leader for Designer Maker and Associate Head of School – Enterprise... in real terms, what I actually ‘do’ includes the leading of and teaching on a course that focuses on the designing, making and production of objects and artefacts. Plus, I lead the Enterprise and Creative Industries agenda within the School of Art, Design and Architecture.

Learning by doing

My motivation is centred around celebrating the importance of the haptic ‘learning by doing’ mode of creative growth, supporting and guiding ‘Doers’ to achieve full recognition for their amazing achievements.

Clay: flexible and temperamental

As a creative practitioner I was originally interested in the astonishingly flexible and temperamental material of clay and the different ways I could translate the ideas in my head or sketchbook into objects.

3D students working in ceramics studio
Students working in the ceramics studio

"As I developed my making career it became apparent that I was more interested in sharing my knowledge, skills and passion for creating rather than making to sell or pay the bills."

3D Maker 2017 Show Devon Guild Contemporary Craft Fair

"When it comes to university work my proudest accomplishments are, and have always been, being a part of the teaching, guiding and development of creative people achieving their goals."


Whilst I do have hurdles to climb I am also fully aware that I have privileges and can’t be complacent. For me #PressForProgress is about questioning when required and working to support, guide and speak up for those who feel they can’t. 

The Global Gender Gap report 2017 states, “We are more than 200 years from global gender parity”. This doesn’t surprise me, however as an optimistic female, parent of a female and teacher of females I am an activist for parity and will always work hard for fairness.

We are at numerous tipping points and have broken down many barriers in this last year, however it’s important to keep ‘calling it out’, not accept the bad or so called ‘normal’ behaviours and rules just because ‘that’s how it’s done’.

Waking up the ‘explorer gene’ and finding ways around or breaking through the boulders is for me a progressive and powerful way forward!

What do you wish people would stop asking you?

What app on your phone do you use the most?

What do you wish you had more time for?


Evolving design teaching in a changing education climate

Fresh from judging on Channel 4’s Kirstie’s Celebrity Craft Masters, Polly Macpherson discusses how BA (Hons) 3D Design has adapted to students' needs.

“We have had to adapt our programmes in order to make sure everyone studying with us gets to explore a full breadth of design thinking, making and processing, using a range of materials, to find their own direction.”

Find out more about our BA (Hons) 3D Design course

Polly Macpherson