For over a decade, practice-based research degrees in art and design have formed part of the United Kingdom research degree education portfolio, with a relatively rapid expansion in recent years. This route to the PhD still constitutes an innovative, and on occasion a disputed, form of research study and students embarking upon the practice-based doctorate find themselves in many ways undertaking pioneering work. To date there has been a dearth of empirical studies of the actual experiences of such students. This article, based upon qualitative interviews with 50 students based at 25 institutions, represents an attempt to begin to fill this lacuna. The article charts the biographical change which students undergo as they pursue their doctorates. It examines the ways in which they construct, maintain, and modify their identities whilst in the role of ‘creator/maker’, and seek to manage and combine the different modes of being required of a ‘creator’ and a researcher.