Busy pairs of hands from students at Northfields Education Centre, moulded, sculpted and crafted their own individual clay self-portraits in a workshop led by artist Megan Players on Wednesday March 22nd
The workshop began with an introduction to Megan’s work, examples of clay self-portraits and images of figurative sculptural work by artist Clare Curneen. Students were encouraged to comment on depictions of the human form and the subject of ‘self’ represented in these examples. Observations such as ‘subtle’, ‘sensitive’ ‘delicate’ and ‘softness’ were shared. The intent of Megan’s workshops to be exactly that, sensitive depictions of the self rather than a literal likeness.
“The portraits will be a reflection of our essence which will be elaborated with symbolic references to the things, material or emotional, we aspire towards.” Megan Players
There was something truly inspiring about the attitudes of willingness and acceptance that students demonstrated, without question or hesitation as they threw themselves into the activity of manipulating a sizeable lump of crank clay into self-portraits. It is notable how it was the adults and not the students, who, at first approached the activity with self-conscious hesitation.
As the morning workshop session progressed, a relaxed atmosphere allowed for conversations about the forms that students were making; an anthropomorphic animal/human figure inspiring stories around that character, another looming form emerging from a student’s nightmares into something more positive and less scary by taking physical form; a third student spoke about their future aspirations on their college course next year. This same student also later remarked, “I never thought I’d like doing art before…”
Skills of working intuitively in response to the form that was emerging from the clay were developed and received well by students, all of whom took time to look at what they were making and think how best respond to the shapes and positions of shoulders, arms and posture being formed. Other skills of working with negative space and proportion were taught as students progressed to refining their figures. At all times this was never overtly a technical task with ‘rights’ or ‘wrongs’, but promoted a conscientious way of looking, evaluating and making visual judgements, responding to the work in front of them. Activities that saw the students develop in confidence both verbally and in a commitment to resolving their pieces of work.
Megan introduced clay working tools as the figures began to emerge from the clay and fluidly responded to the developments of each student’s work, working one-to-one on discussing their pieces and offering technical advice of how they could attach parts such as arms, to their creations and how to make facial features. In the end one student seemingly surprised at what they’d produced, commented “This actually looks something like me.”
The simplicity and direct nature of this workshop allowed for quality making time, sustained concentration and reflection that produced results which were individual and pertinent to the thoughts, creativity and feelings of their makers.