West Dean Sculpture Summer School

I have taught several courses a year for a decade at West Dean College in the South Downs National Park, former home of Edward James. My new summer school sculpture course is 6 days and accompanies 7-9 other courses over the same period. Both camaraderie and cross-fertilisation of ideas between disciplines increases during this period; whilst the courses are longer, there is more time for reflection. The intensity reduces slightly and the time for thinking about the work and creativity grows.

My group in 2016 were presented with a number of raw materials to explore through a number of themes:

the making of visually-strong, complete forms
the human figure
the landscape
found objects – their value and relationship to the artist
plants and trees

The brief was simple; to look to the relationship between the sculptor, material and subject (or idea), try to represent all – but to keep away from conceptually-laden work (or design, some might say). To see what excites and what does not, discarding the latter and picking up something else. To be a sculptor one only needs to keep exploring – to add one more piece of clay or to take away one lump from the block. The week looked at both additive and reductive ways of working to see what participants were drawn towards.

The creative results littered our studio at the end of the week, and students took away a little more knowledge of themselves and perhaps an individual area to continue; perhaps linking to their other professional practice or seeking to replace some other professional discipline. The pieces stand on their own without interpretation; the feeling they might inspire in any viewer may be completely different from that entering from the creator.

Of course, the summer school invites those attendees to relax, enjoy and further understand others disciplines and come together to celebrate. These are some of the sights of the Summer School week:

Next year’s Summer School for sculptors is 5-11th August 2017. Book early to avoid disappointment!


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