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Fancy a clay date?

Mr Muddy's head on a stick after forgetting to unstack the dishwasher again? No, it's art daaaarling! Muddy goes on taster day at North Tawton's Sculpture School.

One of the downsides of the offspring becoming teens is I no longer have the excuse to spend afternoons squishing Play-Doh. So you can imagine how chuffed I was when I heard about the taster days at The Sculpture School in North Tawton.

An entire day to play with clay, er I mean learn all about ‘figurative head sculpture’, and in a purpose-built school to boot. How could I refuse? 

THE LOCATION

Unusually for our county, the sculpture school is perfectly located to allow the feeling of being deep in the Devon countryside while being easily accessible from the A30. So hurrah! No scratches to the car this time.

It has a most entertaining car park, between the school and workshop, and watched over by this exotic lady, Prehysteric, who even has cellulite on her bum! 

THE LOWDOWN

It’s owned by the internationally renowned figurative sculptor, Andrew Sinclair MRRS, who moved here with his partner Diane in 2014 to establish a sculpture school.

As well as fulfilling commissions, Andrew teaches professionals and amateurs alike, and has plans to establish a sculpture park at this four-acre site, with thousands of trees already planted in readiness.

Andrew’s style is narrative realism, aka highly realistic, and possibly his best known piece is a tribute to the late David Bowie in Aylesbury. As with many of his pieces, you can see a copy up close at the sculpture School allowing visitors to see how skilful it is (pictured above).

THE COURSE

There were 10 of us on the course, each with our own workstation and set of tools perfectly spaced to be in line with the current Covid rules. The room itself is large and airy and full of lovely sculptures. Frankly, the toilets alone deserve a photo, they were super clean and stylish with a glorious sculpture of Diane’s in each one (might be best to leave the loo before trying one of the yoga positions depicted though.)

As we broke for lunch Andrew was kind enough to show us around the workshop and the new studio.

Despite my initially being a little unnerved by my allotted block of clay, Andrew took us through each step with great warmth and humour .

We were all soon building up our little heads, and it was amazing to see how differently we all interpreted the same information. By the end of the day there were ten little heads all as individual as their makers.

VIBE

Andrew is delightful, with an easy, encouraging manner and a mellifluous voice that encourages the mindfulness that inevitably follows as you concentrate on the small piece of sculpture that is magically appearing in your hands. Mercifully for me, he is also more than happy to be hands-on and fix any issues.

Participants ranged broadly from an artist, a marine biologist and a French baker, and the atmosphere was welcoming and convivial with everyone clearly enjoying themselves.

ANYTHING ELSE?

The new workshop has a nice little cafe (long-term plans to open the cafe to the general public are on hold due to Covid) where you can watch the four friendly alpacas outside the window.

Ultimately, the plan is to open a sculpture garden and some curious sculptures are already in place including an armoured rhinoceros and a cherry so large that it would need a swimming pool-sized martini (incidentally what I needed after a full day’s sculpting).

RHS Rosemoor is just up the road and the Sinclairs have a number of recommendations for places to stay nearby if you were tempted by one of their four-day courses.

THE MUDDY VERDICT

Good for: having a stab at sculpting and if it really takes your fancy you can sign up for longer courses that go into more detail. Great for anyone wanting to do something creative on their own or maybe with a friend.
Not for: not really one for the kiddos or anyone expecting the Venus de Milo on their first attempt.

The damage: A day’s taster sculpture course with all materials, use of tools and tuition is £65. Tea and coffee freely provided but take your own lunch.

Fancy getting hands on or buying a taster day as an early Christmas present for someone arty? The next Taste of Sculpture Day is on 9 December, 10.30am-3.30pm.

The Sculpture School, Burnswood Studios, Bondleigh, North Tawton EX20 2AP 01837 82879 info@thesculptureschool.co.uk

Words by Ashley Tremlett.

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