"There is definitely a perception about the type of person that does an art and design degree. But I am proof that you don't have to follow a conventional route."
Isla is about to graduate with a BA Hons in Creative Arts and Design Practice from Banbury and Bicester College, having won an international arts prize and secured a solo gallery exhibition along the way.
Her journey to this point has been varied to say the least, including a first degree in engineering, 15 years spent in management for major manufacturing and I.T. firms and a qualification in equine massage.
Isla said: "I loved art at school, but when you are also good at maths and science no one is going to recommend that you follow an arts route. After working in business for over 15 years I became disillusioned. I had horses, so trained in equine massage with a view to making this a new career, but something kept pulling me back to art and design."
Like many adults, Isla indulged her creative energies in evening and weekend courses. But this wasn't quite enough. "I would spend time doing short courses in drawing or print making but it didn't give me what I was hunting for. There was no critical appreciation or feedback and I needed more challenge."
Having attended an end of year exhibition at the college she was inspired to apply to the foundation degree course. But with no portfolio of work to show, her first attempts were very nearly short lived.
Isla remembers: "I was given six weeks to build a portfolio before coming back for another interview. I didn't even know what a portfolio should look like but I spent every hour I could drawing and painting. Luckily it was the proof required that I was up for the challenge."
Throughout the programme, Isla has used the arts to explore complex themes, from cognitive mapping and displacement to medical interventions. Her latest exhibition looks at the surgical world in an installation combining ceramics and film - a far cry from the "more decorative" work she used to enjoy.
One of the highlights of her time on the course has been winning the Sheffield Artists' International Book Prize, and securing an exhibition at the Cupola Gallery.
She said: "If you'd said to me five years ago that I would be exhibiting my work in a solo exhibition I would have thought it impossible. The course has provided me with some great and very rare opportunities. It has been an interesting journey, and I have had to learn to balance my organised, goal driven style with new approaches to exploring themes in a very open ended way. If I can do that, then I hope it shows others that art and design could be a route for them."