How to; Recycling Clay Made Easy and Manageable.

Recycling clay can be such a nightmare. No-one likes doing it. Popular methods include gradually building a huge stack of bags of hard clay against the shed until they are covered in slime, bugs and budleas and then moving house. Or the dreaded dust-bin filled to the brim with clay scraps and left for years, then you end up being the sucker who gets clay caked on top of their head as they lean in to scoop out the  endless goo, until they reach the  bottom that has weirdly gone rock hard dreaming all the while of the fantasy pug-mill that never needs cleaning out as opposed to real ones that always do.

Serious Potters using the Wheel need to treat their clays in certain ways. Everyone else, like Hand-builders, Sculptors, schools and community studios can use this less harrowing method.

– 1/2 fill clay-bags with scrap clay, no matter how wet/dry (pref small pieces), close firmly w/ twisty, cover w/ water( so bags fill up ) in Bin outside. Leave ’till lumps have broken down. A clay plenty of grog (gritty bits) may only take a few days. In Japan they let their clay soak for a generation but here a week should do it.
– Have separate bin for white/ red clays.(I don’t, TBH)430068_255359921215212_934182331_n

– Lift bags out and stack  facing open end down to drain. Frost is your ally here. Avoid raw ground so worms are less likely to crawl in the bags, die(tragic) and stink (also upsetting)…..I once found a Newt alive in a wet bag that had not been closed, true story.
Drag drained (firmer-feeling) bag off pile to ground and step back/close eyes while spiders run away. Pick/hose off Slugs etc425991_255360004548537_1084689641_n

– Stack bags in warm ( only so it’s not cold on your poor hands), unavoidable spot and turn small quantities at a time onto plaster blocks* (or wood up on bricks), turn regularly through the day(s), return to bag and close tightly w/ a twisty. If it gets too hard return to step 1.

I sometimes use it v. soft or deliberately harden bags to act as ‘armature’ supports.This is a great time to blend odd bags of different clays to make your own ‘Crank’428362_255360091215195_561760018_n

 

! Whole bag gone rock-hard; remove from bag, dry completely, drop on hard floor to break into bits, recycle.

! Whole bag too hard to use; remove from bag, knock holes all over w/ screw-driver and hammer (oddly satisfying), return to bag, recycle.

* make your own plaster blocks; line a cardboard box w/ new garbage bag + pour in Plaster of Paris. Leave top set. Trim off edges w/ a sur-form  blade (looks like a small cheese-grater). If chips of plaster get in your clay they will turn to lime in the firing and cause ‘lime-spots’; they absorb atmospheric water, expand and spit off a chip of ceramic, invariably from the most noticeable place like the end of a nose, sometimes months after a firing, usually after you have delivered a piece to a Gallery you are desperately trying to impress.

 

How to use clay in a Care-home setting.

 

There is plenty of documentation about how arts and crafts can play a huge role in health and well being in Care Homes. But fitting activities into a busy, often stressful day can be daunting. Hiring in professional Artists experienced in working in health-care settings to assess the options and train staff can be great fun and very rewarding. But it might be beyond your budget.

Carers have the most important skills needed; they know their Residents well and want them to enjoy their day. In-coming teachers might not be able to spot the subtle signs that a Resident is having a rewarding experience or that they are getting bored or distressed. Residents often wont open up to new people. The only thing that matters is that the activity, even if it is just loosening stiff hands by playing with tools or being intrigued by the squishy feel of the clay, is that it adds stimulus, and hopefully fun, to the day.

I’m thinking mainly of people with Dementia here but Clay Modelling will be very popular with all sorts of Elderly Residents. Be prepared for lots of very rude models and lots of laughs!!

These basic principles can be used for all arts and crafts- and the results will always be just as good.

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Carers often undervalue their skills and can be shy about providing craft-skills. They just need encouragement, sensible, efficient Craft-packs and storage and a well managed schedule.

Clay Modelling in Care Homes; Low cost, straight-forward, self-hardening, recyclable.

Clay Modelling kit- One time purchases, max £60

You will need;

-1 x 12.5kg bag of Scarva Earthstone ES70  Architectural Body Clay a professional quality white clay from Scarva, my favourite supplier of outstanding sculpture clays. Including delivery you will spend about £25-£30.

-A bucket (the clay bag always leaks!)

-a choice of tools; Wooden Modelling Tools and Ribbon Tools will be the most popular.Scarva have a good range  but I buy them from Top Pot Supplies ( best quality yet lowest prices!) Amazon has affordable letter stamps (Small or larger) that will be very useful. 

-Re-usable plastic table-cloth cover if you are worried about scratches on your tables as this clay has small grit in it.

-a few micro-cloths. They are the quickest, easiest cloths for cleaning tables and hands.

-Boards are optional. B&Q will custom-cut a sheet of MDF for you. A board wide enough to fit across a wheel chair is great for some people.

Approx cost, incl. sheet MDF; £60. You don’t need all these items to start off.

The quality clay is the important item. Clays are made with recipes and therefor there is an infinite number of types of clay, each with particular properties. ES70 is absolutely lovely to use; it feels very nice, it’s not sticky, it doesn’t stain, it’s easy to clean up ( on carpet let it dry + brush out), it’s not irritating to sensitive skin and you can eat it! Most importantly it is very easy to use so people get good, rewarding results quickly. Beginners deserve a great material that will reward their bravery for trying something new and give them fab results that will spur them on.

ES70 works very well as a self hardening clay and can be decorated with poster paints once it’s dry. Residents can keep favourite pieces in their rooms for a while. It can mean a great deal to visiting families to see nice things their loved one has made.

Plan to recycle all the clay, even if it’s painted or has dried completely. Explain that the clay is expensive so you need to keep it for next time so that they don’t think it’s because you assume they will make rubbish! People are usually perfectly happy to get a photo of their work and then let it go. Often it takes the pressure off to make a ‘product’ and they can relax and enjoy the making part more.

What To Make?

Anything and nothing! Just try out the material, let your-self and your Resident play around, feel the material, flatten it, poke it! Put a little water on it and feel the smooth change in the texture. Letter stamps are great- get your resident to pick out the letters of their own or a family-member’s name. Press in every day objects. Try all the tools; it never matters what the tools are used for. Make models to get a conversation going. Give an enthusiastic resident some space and quiet to try things at their own pace. You don’t need to ‘teach’ you just need to share the experience. It’s a lovely thing to do.

Let people know that this is professional quality clay and tools; Residents are often very prickly about being treated like children and people forget that Adults are allowed to play too and that creativity is important for everyone’s well-being. We call it ‘A Hobby’ so it sounds mature! If you make your own things along side them and laugh about your mistakes it sets the right tone.

Work with a group or just one person for as much time as feels right. Have Art and Craft as part of any day, not just as a special occasion.

Gwalia Mynnydd Mawr Residential and Nursing Home in Carmarthenshire are aiming to bring creativity and fun into every day for their Residents. The kids had great success with asking Residents what hobbies they used to love or what pets they had and then making a model of that in front of curious Residents. Lots of warm conversations were started that way.

Gwalia Mynydd Mawr Residential and Nursing Home in Carmarthenshire are aiming to bring creativity and fun into every day for their Residents. The kids had great success with asking Residents what hobbies they used to love or what pets they had and then making a model of that in front of the now curious person. Lots of warm conversations were started that way.

Re-using the Clay

-At the end of a session drop all the clay back in the bag. (lots of people will love smashing the work up!)

-Put bag in Bucket

-slowly pour  a cup or so of water over the clay in the bag to soften the clay.

-Close bag w/ twisty

-leave minimum over night.

-place bag on floor and step on it a few times to “knead” the clay, turning bag a few times.

-Voila! It is ready for use. You can re-cycle your clay endlessly.

! Bag goes rock-hard; Allow to dry completely, drop lump on floor to break up, put pieces in bag and recycle

! Bag goes quite hard; knock holes all over lump.(hammer + screw driver= surprisingly satisfying task!) Return to bag and recycle.

! Bag goes too squishy; Tip clay onto a board and allow to dry until useable. “Knead” a few times over the day (or two) so that it dries evenly.

Storage

-Always close bag tightly w/ twisty

-Ideally store in a handy frost free place but it doesn’t matter  if the clay freezes.

-Ideally have the bucket on wheels as 12.5kg is quite heavy (plant pot wheels – Home-Bargains, £1.99.)

-Have all the kit together for quick access by everyone.

Homes need to be adaptable like ‘normal’ homes and organise a way for Carers and Residents to feel welcome to relax and make some mess. You wont get much with clay. Have a broom and a dust pan and brush handy. Enjoy!

 

 

Primary School children visiting the Care home for lovely afternoon of creative fun with Residents and carers. There was lots of singing, laughter and sharing. The residents lit up and the children were relaxed, charming and really enjoyed supporting their elders.

Primary School children visiting the Care home for lovely afternoon of creative fun with Residents and carers. There was lots of singing, laughter and sharing. The residents lit up and the children were relaxed, charming and really enjoyed supporting their elders. Family days like this are great fun. Take photos of the pieces and then re-cycle the clay.

You can see more about the wonderful, 2 year long, Arts Care Gofal Celf Project shown in the pictures here; The Tumble Commission, parts 1-8 

General information about Workshops with Osprey Studios.

More information about collaborative and community projects.

Interesting article:

Clay therapy offers pathways into communication and reminiscence for people with dementia

29-Jan-16

Article By: Melissa McAlees, News Editor

There is plenty of research about how arts and crafts can play a huge role in individual health and well-being in care homes. Clay modelling is a therapeutic activity that has become increasingly popular in the care sector.

Clay is cathartic in nature as it allows an individual to express an array of emotions. For older people and those living with dementia, clay therapy provides creative stimulation, social interaction and develops fine motor skills with a variety of positive outcomes, including increased confidence, concentration and motivation.

Rebecca Buck, professional sculptor at Osprey Studios has offered clay therapy to older people and those living with dementia as part of Arts Care Gofal Celf’s Gwalia project in Wales. She believes it is fundamental for older people and those with dementia to experience varied activities such as clay therapy.

“It’s fun, soothing and engrossing. Being creative might have played a huge part in a person’s life, happiness and self-expression. Even for those who are living with dementia, they still need an outlet,” she said.

“Clay therapy can replace the verbal language that has been lost in some individuals. Several of our participants who were non-speaking and prone to angry outbursts showed wonderful skill and contentment with drawing, clay and painting. That gave their families a way to link with their loved one, which resulted in happier residents.

“Arts and crafts can create a bridge between residents and their loved ones and offers pathways into communication and reminiscence. Making family visits relaxed is therefore very important as the focus can tend to concentrate on the individual’s condition.”

The qualities of clay have a calming effect on those living with dementia

A previous study, published by the American Academy of Neurology, revealed that individuals who participate in arts and craft based activities can experience a reduced risk of developing Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI), which can often lead to dementia.

Research manager at Alzheimer’s Society, Dr Clare Walton, said: “Although this study looks at mild cognitive impairment rather than dementia, it does add to previous evidence that keeping your brain active during life with arts, crafts and social activities might reduce the risk of developing memory problems.”

According to Alzheimer’s Society, 80 per cent of people living in care homes have a form of dementia or severe memory problems. For some, clay therapy and arts and crafts activities can conjure up anxious feelings about their capability.

Similarly, although clay therapy sessions have been found to support the interactions between care staff and residents, Ms Buck believes that care workers can also often undervalue their skills and can be shy about providing craft-activities.

She suggests that, at times, care staff require ‘encouragement to feel confident that clay activities are about providing a sensory rich experience, rather than creating a piece of art’.

Clay gives shapes to formless entities of feelings and ideas

Since conducting extensive research, Sumita Chauhan, researcher at the University of Kent, found that clay is the most familiar material to make sculptures with and is currently used for therapeutic as well as creative purposes.

She said: “My workshops on clay modelling involve people with dementia and are organised to provide enjoyment through the creative process of making sculptures. Working with clay is a very effective way of individuals expressing themselves as it doesn’t restrict it to verbal communication only. I have realised the act of creation and involvement in the process is as important as the final creation.

“Creative activities have many benefits for people with dementia. The possibility of transforming a lump of clay into a form provides self-control and builds up confidence. Clay as a material has many qualities. Its softness and smoothness has a calming effect on people with dementia, and the process of using clay to make a sculpture offers individuals a wide variety of sensory experience.

“Preparation of the clay starts with kneading first and this process requires a lot of force and pressure. Sometimes, while doing this, individuals living with dementia let out their pent up anxiety and, to a certain extent their frustration, as a non-verbal communication.”

‘Clay sculptures become a source of communication and reflection’

Clay modelling can also be a valuable social activity. Co-operation and sharing of ideas in groups can promote a sense of identity and a sense of belonging.

Commenting on the many benefits, Ms Chauhan said: “Clay modelling is a slow process and as the form starts building up, it takes a lot of patience to complete the details required on the surface. This allows individuals to leave a personal mark on their work. As a result, clay sculptures not only become a source of communication but also a source of reflection.

“Most of the participants in my workshop sessions instantaneously react to the material. I have found that the tactile contact of the material often becomes the starting point of conversation. An open discussion across the table makes it easy to know each other and be social.

“It is worth giving maximum time to develop individuals’ ideas of what they want to create, thus helping to build their identity. Instead of explaining the process, a demonstration is more effective.

“Watching others working with clay or making a sculptural form certainly stimulates individuals. There is a definite involvement and the outcome of such interaction is their response and comments about the sculptural form, such as their likes or dislikes. Sometimes people reminiscence a past experience which they associate with the material or the form they are seeing.”

Art projects in care homes rekindle imaginations and trigger memories

A two year arts care project involving residents at Gwalia Mynydd Mawr care home recently culminated in the unveiling of a new sculpture.

‘Yma a Nawr’ was funded by the Baring Foundation and delivered by Carmarthen-based Arts Care Gofal Celf. The project brought professional artists of various disciplines into Gwalia’s Mynydd Mawr care home to work with residents and their families.

The interactive sessions included printing, textiles and sketching.

Commenting on the success of the project, Jodie Boyd, occupational therapist at Gwalia, said: “The arts are proven to have numerous benefits within residential and nursing care settings, the storytelling and reminiscence work is particularly successful when a person’s short-term memory has started to deteriorate but their memories from years ago remain intact.

“Arts Care Gofal Celf’s work has rekindled imaginations, triggered memories, provided opportunities for socialising and conversation and increased self-esteem.”

How to Make Abstract Sculpture in Clay; working solid and hollowing out.

 

Over Half a Century III.

Half a Century VIII.

The Edge VII

Wyvern VIII, 2015, 39cm H x 71cm L x 34cm D, ceramic.

Up is Down VII, back view

Up is Down V, 44cm H x 58cm L x 50cm D,

Up is Down VI, second view.

Up is Down V, back view

Making Abstract Sculpture can feel very elusive; where to start, when to stop? This post aims to de-mystify the process and give you an ideal technique that will allow you to go with your flow to make beautiful Abstract forms that express those things that are not easily put into words or naturalistic art.

Because there is no right or wrong with Abstracts you are better off with a technique that allows you to feel your way around the form and to change your mind any time you want to. Building the piece in solid clay allows you to separate the ceramic-technical needs from the flow of creativity for the most part. You do need to make good joins as you go along but with the right clay that is not a distraction. It’s a great method for pieces up to 1 metre. For larger Sculptures I often use it over a hollow clay-armature to reduce the over-all weight. Use a clay designed for sculpture and hand-building with plenty of grog (gritty bits like sand). Scarva’s ES 50 is fab and excellent value for money.

I work to music and usually have a theme I am following.  When you start out with Abstracts you need to put some boundaries in place; have a theme (an emotion, geometry, etc) or abstract a known form like a figure or an animal. All the pieces above were made using this technique. All but one are made in combinations of Scarva’s black clays.

Gill Tennant-Eyles, Emma Bevan and Tez Roberts came to Osprey Studios for a Workshop. We had an excellent day going over this technique and sharing each other’s ideas.

Make a block of clay that has the approximate hight/width/depth you feel you need at this point. Rough out the beginnings of a form.

Make a block of clay that has the approximate hight/width/depth you feel you need at this point. Rough out the beginnings of a form.

Work all around the form in stages, giving each area equal attention, refining with each rotation.

Work all around the form in stages, giving each area equal attention, refining with each rotation.

Add or subtract clay. A paddle will be very useful.

Add or subtract clay. A paddle will be very useful.

When the piece starts sagging leave it to harden up a bit. Use plastic to keep the drying even.

When the piece starts sagging leave it to harden up a bit. Use plastic to keep the drying even.

For larger pieces the process is the same. Use props or leave temporary supports of clay to hold up the form until it hardens. These might stay there until you have hollowed out the sculpture and reduced the weight.

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Once the piece is leather-hard carve/scrape the surface. You can still add clay but pay attention to the joins.

Once the piece is leather-hard carve/scrape the surface. You can still add clay but pay attention to the joins.

At the point where the form is complete apart from finishing the surface stop building and get ready to hollow -out. The piece should be firm enough to resist a thumb-print. On very large pieces you might start hollowing the top while the lower parts are still too damp; the hollowed clay walls will need to be able to support themselves with-out distorting. Don't let the form get to hard or you wont be able to cut it open.

At the point where the form is complete apart from finishing the surface, stop building and get ready to hollow-out. The piece should be firm enough to resist a thumb-print. On very large pieces you might start hollowing the top while the lower parts are still too damp; the hollowed clay walls will need to be able to support themselves with-out distorting. Don’t let the form get too hard or you wont be able to cut it open.

How thick the clay can be to fire well depends on the amount of grog, the denseness of your modelling style, drying time and the speed of your firing.

Air bubbles trapped in the clay will expand with the heat. Grog and/or a loose surface will allow the air to seep through the clay. The same is true with water but steam expands fast. If your piece breaks into big bits during the fire it was trapped air and you will be able to see where the bubbles were in the shards. If it blows up into a trillion smithereens it wasn’t properly dry!

I dry thick sculptures slowly under plastic which I turn daily for 4 weeks minimum and then 1-2 weeks in a plastic tent with a dehumidifier. A long dry allows the water to level out as water loves to do and that will enhance the structure of the clay within it’s new sculpture shape. You will get less cracks or distorting in the fire.

I fire very slowly with an 18 degree C rise until 600 degrees C.

Generally 3cm is a fair maximum thickness for a well grogged clay.

Choosing where to cut is easy: Starting at the top make the first cut at the point where you can  reach all the parts that need hollowing to leave 1-3cm walls. That may mean cutting off a very small piece and hollowing barely a few scoops, for example the head of a figure: drill a tool down the neck and then your next cut would be low on the chest, etc. Always ensure there is an air outlet for each hollowed area. Hard to reach areas can be skewerd from the inside or outside to make channels for the air/water to escape.

Horizontal cuts are best because gravity is on your side while the piece is drying.

Horizontal cuts are best because gravity is on your side while the piece is drying. Lay the cut section on foam.

Hollow the cut section first, score the edges with a serrated kidney (NEVER make deep scores) moisten w/ water and /or slip so that that edge can soften while the section is upside-down. The hollow into the rest of the form going as far as you can reach. Mark how far you reached on the surface to help you decide where to make the next cut.

Hollow the cut section first, leaving a wall approx 1.5-2cm thick. Do not smooth this inner surface: it will make it difficult for any trapped air to pass through the clay during firing. You can leave ‘buttress’ type support walls. Score the edges with a serrated kidney (NEVER make deep scores with a pointy tool. Tiny bubbles of air will get trapped there all along your join and possibly cause a crack.) Moisten w/ water/slip so that the edge can soften while the section is upside-down. Then hollow into the rest of the form going as far as you can reach. Mark how far you reached on the surface to help you decide where to make the next cut.

 

Once both edges are softened put the pieces back together and move back and forth until you feel the edges lock together. Genuine joins are formed when the chains of platelet-shaped particles from each section inter-lock. Picture a magnified image of hair. Score marks do not give the surface 'tooth'; they allow water into the clay-body. On vertical surfaces they hold the water in place to give it time to sink in. Slip is not 'glue', it is clay particles spread out in water and has little strength, especially when it has dried. It is ideal for holding a lot of water in place to give it time to be absorbed to soften the area of leather-hard clay. Manipulate the softened clay at the join to encourge further integration of those particle-chains and to disturb the straight line of the join; cracks love to zing along a nice straight slip-weakened join during the firing when the pull of shrinking stresses the sculpture.

Quality Joints:  Once both edges are softened put the pieces back together and move back and forth until you feel the edges lock together. Genuine joins are formed when the chains of platelet-shaped particles from each section inter-lock. Picture a magnified image of hair. Score marks do not give the surface ‘tooth’; they allow water into the clay-body. On vertical surfaces they hold the water in place to give it time to sink in. Slip is not ‘glue’, it is clay particles spread out in water and has little strength, especially when it has dried. It is ideal for holding a lot of water in place to give it time to be absorbed to soften the area of leather-hard clay.                                         Once both edges are softened put the pieces back together and move back and forth until you feel the edges lock together.        
Manipulate the softened clay at the join to encourage further integration of those particle-chains and to disturb the straight line of the join; cracks love to zing along a nice straight slip-weakened join during the firing when the pull of shrinking stresses the sculpture.

 

Smooth the now recessed join with water + rub until a slip is lifted from the join's surface. Make a coil 1.5cm thick by squeezing. Do not roll your coils; it packs the finer particles on the coils's surface making it resistant to joining. Attach one end and inch the coil into the join; press in then squeeze the coil to force it to inch forward along the join; this friction creates the bond.

Smooth the now recessed join with water + rub until a slip is lifted from the join’s surface. Make a coil 1.5cm thick by squeezing. Do not roll your coils; it packs the finer particles on the coils’s surface making them resistant to joining. Attach one end and inch the coil into the join; press in then squeeze the coil to force it to inch forward along the join; this friction creates the bond between the surfaces. Coiling explained here.

Blend the coil in, leaving it raised. The excess clay will slowly release it's water into the join, slowing drying. Wrap the piece in plastic and leave for week or so until the coil has the same hardness as the rest of the form. Then you can scrape it away, compressing the clay as you go to leave a strong join that wont recess during the firing.

Blend the coil in, leaving it raised. The excess clay will slowly release it’s water into the join, slowing drying. Wrap the piece in plastic and leave for week or so until the coil has the same hardness as the rest of the form. Then you can scrape it away, compressing the clay as you go to leave a strong join that wont recess during the firing.

Make you next cut and repeat.

Make your next cut and repeat.

Once those coils have hardened under plastic you can complete the Sculptures surface and edges.Once those coils have hardened under plastic you can complete the Sculptures surface and edges. Then set to dry very slowly (min 4 weeks) under a 5-sheets-thick-newspaper or cardboard box. For very large forms you can use a double layer of bed-sheets. If you use plastic turn it regularly so that condensation doesn't drip onto the clay and spoil it.

Once those coils have hardened under plastic you can complete the Sculpture’s surface and edges.   Then set to dry very slowly (min 4 weeks) under a 5-sheets-thick-newspaper or cardboard box. For very large forms you can use a double layer of bed-sheets. If you use plastic turn it regularly so that condensation doesn’t drip onto the clay and spoil it. Or stick plastic over your selves to make a micro drying-room.

Work in progress by Gill Tennant-Eyles

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Work in progress by Emma Bevan

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Work in progress by Tez Roberts

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These sculptures were all made with this excellent, versatile technique.

The Edge VIII, in progress.

The Edge VIII, in progress.

Up Is Down IV, in progress.

Up Is Down IV, in progress.

Up Is Down II, in progress.

Up Is Down II, in progress.

Up Is Down V, in progress.

Up Is Down V, in progress.

Up Is Down X, in progress.

Up Is Down X, in progress.

Over Half a Century, in progress.

Over Half a Century, in progress.

Wyvern VIII, in progress.

Wyvern VIII, in progress.

 

What Was the First Abstract Artwork?

click on this title to see the original article. Artsy has some really interesting reviews and is a great place to see stunning art-work.

  • Wassily Kandinsky, Composition V, 1911. Image via Wikimedia Commons.

Who made the first Western abstract painting? That was the question that Wassily Kandinsky’s widow, accompanied by a team of researchers, set out to answer in 1946. Her late husband, a Russian painter who was among the pioneers of abstraction in the early 1910s, had himself been personally invested in the answer.

In 1935, Kandinsky had penned a letter to his gallerist in New York to insist on his preeminence. “Indeed,” he wrote of a 1911 work, “it’s the world’s first ever abstract picture, because back then not one single painter was painting in an abstract style. A ‘historic painting’, in other words.”

Kandinsky wasn’t the only artist interested in preserving his legacy. He and several early abstract painters—including Robert Delaunay, Mikhail Larionov, Natalia Goncharova, and Kazimir Malevich—backdated their works, in some cases several years before they were actually completed.

This artistic jostling reflects a focus on invention as an individual act, notes curator Leah Dickerman in an essay for MoMA’s 2012 show “Inventing Abstraction, 1910-1025: How a Radical Idea Changed Modern Art.” But, as she goes on to say, that approach is in some ways misguided. Rather than the work of a solitary genius, abstraction “was an invention with multiple first steps, multiple creators, multiple heralds, and multiple rationales.”

What Makes an Abstract Expressionist Painting Good?

At the turn of the 20th century, the world was becoming increasingly connected. Steamships, cars, and trains facilitated international travel, while telephones, telegraphs, and radios allowed for conversations between people on opposite ends of the globe.

Within the art world specifically, journals sprang up in droves; in Paris alone, some 200 reviews of art and culture appeared in the decade leading up to World War I. Subscribers were scattered across Europe and America, allowing a wide swath of creatives to stay abreast of the latest developments in art. And this period also saw the beginning of a traveling exhibition culture, led by the Italian Futurists.

“Historians talk about ‘conditions of possibility,’” Masha Chlenova, a curator who worked with Dickerman on “Inventing Abstraction,” told Artsy. “For example, photography was also invented by three people at the same time. Daguerre just happened to be the best at marketing and patenting.”

Similarly, while Kandinsky is today hailed as the father of abstract painting, he was by no means the only player in the development of non-representational painting. His work Komposition V did, admittedly, jumpstart public interest in abstract painting. Exhibited in Munich in December 1911, this monumental work was just barely representational.

It was the first such work to be put on display, and “for some artists and intellectuals, abstraction not only began to seem plausible, but also took on the character of an imperative,” Dickerman writes.

Kandinsky had been thinking about abstract art for years beforehand. His manifesto On the Spiritual in Art, which appeared as a draft in 1909 and was published the same month as Komposition V went on display, laid out the tenets of abstraction. But it would still be several years before Kandinsky would finally break free from recognizable forms in his art. As Chlenova put it, “he theorized abstraction before he made painting.”

  • František Kupka, Amorpha: Fugue in Two Colors, 1912. Courtesy of The Museum of Modern Art, NY. © 2017 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris.
  • František Kupka Study for Amorpha, Warm Chromatic and for Fugue in two colors; Study for The Fugue, 1910–11. The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice, 1976. © 2017 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris.

Dickerman references Czech-born artist František Kupka as the first to display works that were a complete break from representational painting. His compositions Amorpha, Chromatique chaude and Amorpha, Fugue à deux couleurs were shown at the Salon d’Automne in Paris in October 1912, filmed for the newsreels, and then broadcast across Europe and America.

Dickerman believes that Kupka’s willingness to publicly defy convention was related to his personal history. Although he grew up in Prague and Vienna and started out as a Symbolist, he later moved to Paris and developed close ties with the city’s avant-garde—which, as Dickerman notes, granted “him an insider/outsider status that seems particularly fertile for paradigm-shifting thought.”

But further complicating the question of “first” is that it can be difficult to determine the threshold of abstraction. When, precisely, does a work go from “abstracted” to “abstraction”?

French avant-garde artist Francis Picabia, for example, is sometimes credited with the first abstract painting. His watercolor Caoutchouc (Rubber) was completed in 1909, which would predate even Kandinsky’s theories on abstraction. But other academics have pushed back, noting that the work still retains some semblance of form, reminiscent of a bouquet of flowers.

For “Inventing Abstraction,” Chlenova said she and Dickerman began by establishing clear criteria for what they considered abstract work. “Our main criterion was the artist’s own position and their statements that they’re doing something abstract,” she said. “The terminology is a slightly different question because the word ‘abstract’ would not necessarily be used. But there was a very clear awareness from the artists that were sensitive to what was happening.”

  • Hilma af Klint, The Large Figure Paintings, No. 5, Group III, 1907. Image via Wikimedia Commons.
  • Hilma af Klint, Svanen (The Swan) No. 17, Group IX/SUW, The SUW/UW Series, 1914-1915. Image via Wikimedia Commons.

This is why, she explained, Swedish artist Hilma af Klint was not represented in the MoMA exhibition. Since 2013, when Moderna Museetheld the first-ever retrospective of her work, af Klint’s oeuvre has received renewed attention from the public. Known in her lifetime as a landscape painter and portraitist, it was revealed decades after her death that she had also been experimenting with abstraction. As early as 1906, af Klint had been painting colorful works full of organic shapes, spirals, and curlicues.

This date places her several years before Kandinsky even theorized abstraction, let alone acted on his ideas. But af Klint’s works sprang from her interest in the occult—during the 1890s, she started organizing seances with four artist friends where they practiced automatic drawing and writing.

Later, when she began her largest body of non-representational paintings, she claimed that spiritual forces were directing her hand. And for an artist to be included in “Inventing Abstraction,” Chlenova explained, they had to “formulate their practice as a conscious rejection of any reference to the outside world.”

Others disagreed with this reading, arguing that a mystical approach should not negate her contribution to developing abstraction. “‘Spiritual’ is still a very dirty word in the art world,” curator Maurice Tuchman toldthe New York Times in 2013. “When the prejudice against the idea of the spiritual life in af Klint’s work is overcome, which will require scholarship, then perhaps she will really take hold in the broader conversation.”

But there’s no disagreement that the invention of Western abstraction revolutionized art production in the 20th century, nor that it was predated by centuries of abstracted forms and patterns in non-Western traditions.

“One can treat abstraction a little bit more abstractly, if you will,” Chlenova laughed, “without ultimately being too concerned about who was first.”

—Abigail Cain

Studio Diary, The Landscape Project, part 1

Busts in progress, Aug 2014.

Busts in progress, Aug 2014.

Lots of changes, lots of layers.This is the main photo I am  focussing on; The sky, the land and the ocean and man’s presence – everything is integrated.

Bracelet Bay, Mumbles, Swansea by Steve Foote.

Bracelet Bay, Mumbles, Swansea, by Stephen Foote, 2014.

These 2 pictures and the experience of being in both these places is never far from my mind these days.

Porth Yr Ogof Cave, Brecon Beacons, by Stephen Foote.2014

Porth Yr Ogof Cave, Brecon Beacons, by Stephen Foote.2014

A narrative is emerging that involves the passage of water from the Beacons’ sky to the ocean at the bottom of the Swansea Valley. The Tawe River passes the Studio and the ground beneath us is full of  tunnels from the rivers and from mining. The Wyvern, a dragon with a wonderful mythology about guarding the treasures of the subterranean world entered the picture when I was heavily involved with the history of local Coal Mining and  the Pit Marker Sculptures and it is re-emerging here. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe next clay-armature is more specific now that I have a clearer idea of where I’m going.

3rd Bust armature in progress, Aug 2014.

3rd Bust armature in progress, Aug 2014.

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in progress, Aug 2014.

in progress, Aug 2014.

 

 

 

 

 

Tuition, Workshops, Play Events and Parties.

 

Theatr Brycheiniog's Kid's Zone at Brecon Jazz 2014

Theatr Brycheiniog’s Kid’s Zone at Brecon Jazz 2014

A Join-In Sculpture , Zimele UK. 2015

A Join-In Sculpture, with  Zimele UK in Abergavenny Castle. 2015

Theatr Brycheiniog's Kid's Zone at Brecon Jazz 2014

Theatr Brycheiniog’s Kid’s Zone at Brecon Jazz 2014

Sharing skills and encouraging creativity is what makes the world go round. I have a great deal of experience in guiding people of all ages and abilities towards their own style.

    Groups or individuals are welcome to come here – seeing the Studio lay-out and work-in-progress is part of the event. Or I can bring everything we need to you. The Workshop will be custom made to suit your needs.

For Example;

-I particularly encourage Teacher’s to do a fun, very straightforward  2 hour Workshop on Using Clay Modelling in School. We’ll cover firing/ self-hardening clays,recycling clay,decorating and controlling costs, everything to help you keep clay in the class room because it matters!

-A Portfolio Review will clarify the way you see your work in preparation for college applications or a change of direction.

-‘How To ‘classes with technical solutions for challenging projects,especially working on a large scale.

Join-In Sculptures are great fun and full of learning opportunities. It is a wonderful way to get Groups to explore ideas and themes. I have done these with adults and children at Schools, Events and Parties; Everyone adds their bit until we have a fabulous sculpture. Photos are taken and then we re-cycle the clay.

                   

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A Join-In Sculpture with The Big Skill at Archaeology For All in Merthyr.

A Join-In Sculpture with The Big Skill at Archaeology For All in Merthyr.

    This fantastic 3 metre x 2.5 metre painting was done with many kids at the Penrhos Youth Centre over 6 weeks.

Fees;

£25 per hour + 44p/per/mile Travel + materials .On average Individuals will use around £2.00 worth of clay. On many projects , like the Join In Sculptures,all the material is re-clycled so there is no charge for it.

Powys Arts Month 2014, Open Studio and Garden Exhibition.

Osprey arts mo flyer

 

All over Powys in Mid Wales, UK,  Artists and Craftsmen are opening their Studios and putting on special events to share work. It is a great time to find someone whose style appeals to you and go ask them about projects of your own. We all love talking shop and encouraging others with their creativity. It is an excellent  event for Bargains as Artists spring-clean their Studios and admit it is time to part with secret favourites.

Osprey Studios is open every weekend in May or phone and book any  time that would be more convenient. Evenings are a tranquil, charming time in the Garden.

Everything in this section is under £30.

Everything in this section is under £30.

 

Osprey Studios. Easy parking and access.

Osprey Studios. Easy parking and access.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some of the Sculpture is fresh from the Kiln and new work will be on the go in the Studio.

Some of the Sculpture is fresh from the Kiln and new work will be on the go in the Studio.

Beautiful Penpont ,half way between here and Brecon has an Arts Month site too and is a glorious place to visit. The ‘Visit The Studio’ page here on this site has other attractions, directions  and details for having a lovely day here in the south-western corner of the Brecon Beacons National Park.

You can show up on the day for my 2 workshops but booking in advance will secure your place.

You can get a feel for my best white clay, Scarva Architectural,on the Join-in Sculpture  which will be on the go all month and I’ll put out my Momentum wheel for anyone to try for free too.

A Join In Sculpture at Brecon Jazz with The Big Skill.

A Join In Sculpture at Brecon Jazz with The Big Skill.

The lovely kids visiting Osprey Studios with The Chernobyl Life Line trying out the Momentum Wheel

The lovely kids visiting Osprey Studios with The Chernobyl Life Line trying out the Momentum Wheel

On the 17th the wonderful Photographer, Stephen Foote (see links) that did my best pictures is coming here for anyone else needing top quality images at an affordable price. Everyone is welcome to visit on that day- it will be busy and very interesting to see Stephen Foote working in the Studio.

osprey photo sesion2,PAM 2014

I have had a massive clear-out; I’ve got a large Commission to build in the Studio. It will be on the go during Powys Arts Month and your feed-back during the build would be a great help. It is not going to be an easy one! I’ll have a lot of brand-new, never shown, work here. You can handle the range of  specialist clays I use to see if they might suit you. And there’s also some fab seconds  for sale including my Gwenllians.

Taken as a pair they will be just £500 or £300 each. Some of my other smaller seconds will be £1-£30. They are all frost proof.

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Gwenllian was an actual historical Welsh Warrior Princess. Both Sculptures of her are life-sized and fully frost-proof.

Gwenllian was an actual historical Welsh Warrior Princess. Both Sculptures of her are life-sized and fully frost-proof.

Everyone including Schools and Families will be  very welcome  to Osprey Studios during Powys Arts Month. You can relax in the Garden with a complimentary drink and the kids can play with clay for as long as you like.

 

 

Tuition, Workshops, Play Events and Parties.

 

 

The measuring frees you up to be expressive with your modelling .

The measuring frees you up to be expressive with your modelling. Concrete skills set your creativity free.

Osprey Studios has a major commitment to sharing skills and encouraging creativity. I have a great deal of experience in guiding people of all ages and abilities towards their own style. My sculptural techniques have been tested to destruction and make sound foundations for your own exploration of clay and form. You can find my set of ‘How To’ posts here. I update and add to them regularly and get a big kick out of the fact that they are now used all over the world.

From time to time I’ll run a Master class here on a particular thing; Posts about Workshops. If there is something you want to work on let me know and I’ll collect together a group of like-minded people and we’ll set a date that works for everyone. The price is usually around £90 p/day each for a 7 hour day, with a max group size of 8, including home-made lunch and refreshments. Only materials or tools kept are extra.

A Masterclass at your venue can have more students than that depending on your resources.

 

Groups or individuals are welcome to come to Osprey Studios (SA9 1YT).  Being in the Studio environment with work-in-progress and the sculpture garden outside is part of the event. I usually provide homemade refreshments and lunches (included in the fee) and we have relaxing breaks on the sofa or in the garden to swap ideas and chat. There is accommodation available here or lots of other gorgeous places to stay and eat in this lovely area.

Or I can bring everything we need to you in my van. Sculpture in clay makes surprisingly little mess and is easy to clean up.

The Workshop will be custom made to suit your needs and objectives.

For example;

  • A 1 day workshop guiding you towards your own ‘voice’ in 3D artwork. A very enjoyable, fascinating day with lots of laughs and new experiences in clay work whatever your starting point.
  • Making figures: a 1 day workshop incorporating a great deal of very useful information relavent to all sorts of artwork.
  • I particularly encourage Teacher’s to do a fun, very straightforward 2 hour Workshop on using clay modelling in school. We’ll cover firing/self-hardening clays, recycling clay, decorating and controlling costs, everything to help you keep clay in the class room because it matters!
  • A Portfolio Review will clarify the way you see your work in preparation for college applications or a change of direction.
  • ‘How To’ classes with technical solutions for challenging projects, including working on a large scale, hand-building pottery, drawing from life, portraits/figures, all suitable for all levels of experience including total beginners. 
  • Join-In Sculptures are great fun and full of learning opportunities. They are the ultimate embodiment of unstructured, experiential, messy play! I have done these with adults and children at Events and Parties in all kinds of settings and they bring out the best in everyone. The fabulous, ever changing sculpture is photographed along the way and then we re-cycle the clay. It is a wonderful, flexible, cost effective way to engage and inspire even very large groups ( 80 year 2’s over 1 day is my best yet) and great for working through themes, building concepts and stories and engendering co-operation. No matter how small the contribution it is part of something greater.

                   

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    Occasionally I’ll go for other materials and processes like drawing or murals. This fantastic 3 metre x 2.5 metre painting was done with many wonderful young people at the Penrhos Youth Centre in short sessions over 6 weeks.

This magical book to go in the Library was part of a sculpture project with year 5 at Pennard Primary School on the Gower.

Fees start at £30 per hour + 44p per mile travel + materials. On average individuals will use around £2.00 worth of clay. On many projects, like the Join In Sculptures, all the material is recycled so there is no charge for it.

Feel welcome to contact me to chat through your idea: phone 01639 731271 / 07913743457 or email at osprey.studios@btinternet.com