End of day five teaching

Working on Dave on final afternoon
Working on Dave on final afternoon

Finally, the last day. It’s like we have been in a parallel universe. The end of the fifth day comes as a bit of a shock to all. What, we won’t be back in this room with Dave again tomorrow? Hard to imagine. The students have given their all – they have looked, looked and looked again. Most of my time has been spent prompting them to look more closely – from near, from far, from below, from above, from all sides. Even when tired they push on and make progress. No wonder the last day is a mixture of panic, elation and sadness. Most people spend the morning hollowing-out the portraits in readiness for firing. Energy levels are kept high with a home-cooked tahini, date and almond cake. They all get their hollowing-out finished in time for at least half an hour lunch break – all except for me. So I set them up for the afternoon with Dave and sneak out to the Loving Hut cafe for scrambled tofu roll and hot chocolate – heaven.

On the last afternoon I tend to keep a lower profile, giving feedback only when asked. They beaver away. Falling in and out of love with their sculptures at regular intervals. By the time the clock reaches 5.15pm we are ready for the final ‘exhibition’ and final reflections. It is quite an emotional experience to have all the sculptures lined up with Dave at the centre.

Final presentation with Dave
Final presentation with Dave

We view them from the front, then from the side-profiles.

Final presentation with Dave
Final presentation with Dave

Each student in turn talks about their sculpture, focusing on the progress they have seen and what they want to be tackling in the next portrait they sculpt. Exhausted but happy. Talk of when the next courses are running, as they want to get straight back into it. Then packing up begins. Cars and vans arrive to spirit the portraits away. Hugs and promises to keep in touch.

Finally I am alone with my paraphernalia spread across the studios. An hour and a half later my car is loaded and the studio floor hoovered. That’s it until the summer schools at Phoenix Brighton, Meltdowns Studio (Ramsgate) and the Sussex Sculpture Studios. I will miss it – I love teaching. But it means there is more time to focus on the work for our group show and my peace garden commission.

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