Tom Cubbin

BA (Hons) Russian with Czech, 2006-2010

MA History of Design (at the Royal College of Art and Victoria and Albert Museum), 2010-2012

PhD in Russian Studies: "Artists in Design: Experimental Practice at the Senezh Studio 1964-1989", 2012-2015

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     My name is Tom Cubbin and I'm doing a PhD here in the Russian Department. I'm a design historian, so my research is about industrial design in the 1960s and 1970s in the Soviet Union. Erm... And so I'm really interested in the story of the socialist object and how the object in socialism could be used in different ways to... to understand how people are related to materials, to the economy, to consumerism and all of these different areas that are brought together in using objects associated in history. [...]

I chose to come to Sheffield because I'd established a very good working relationship with my personal tutor when I was an undergraduate student here. And er... she's really a world leader in her field and she's defined a lot of the discourse on, erm... on understanding the material culture in the Soviet Union, so it was a natural choice for me to come back to Sheffield. Erm... [...] In the Russian Department, erm... I mean there's two big names; there's Susan Reid and Evgeny Dobrenko who are both known internationally for their work on Soviet Studies. [...]

Yeah, so I found supervision here at Sheffield, erm, is... erm... is structured but it's not too structured, I'd say. There's, there's erm... I generally will meet with my supervisor once every 4 or 6 weeks and then with my second supervisor a little bit less often. And erm, because I deal with design, my second supervisor is in the Architecture Department - so there was a possibility to have that... erm, an interdepartmental supervisory team. Erm, so that I would be able to have input from two different angles onto my project because the nature of design history is very interdisciplinary.

Erm... and... one of my reservations about coming to Sheffield was... was coming somewhere with no Art History Department, no Design History Department. Erm... But, in some ways, the connections that I make in other departments in History, also in French and Architecture, mean that people dealing with these subjects are kind of more forced to speak to each other in their artificial studies and material culture. [...]

I decided to apply when I did because there was lots of funding available for my PhD. So I'm funded by the Wolfson Foundation, which is a new initiative to secure high levels of funding in the humanities due to, erm, recent spending cuts. And that enables me to travel and to undertake research in Russia for long periods of time and I've also been able to travel, erm... to... Princeton in the States to give a paper there, I'm going to Boston later this year, I was in New Orleans last year as well, and... So having that really good quality kind of scholarship really enables me to do research where I can travel around the world and talk to other historians and meet designers and different people who are able to give me the skills and knowledge to make my research project truly international. [...] And I'm going to be organising a big event here next year. I'm going to apply for some funding and then hopefully bring together, erm... academics and designers from across the world to talk about the aesthetic term in Soviet design in the 60s and 70s... [...]

So I feel very privileged that Sheffield awarded me that funding.
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(June 2013)

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