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Clay Workshop with Rebecca Elves

With a background in illustration and animation, Rebecca became fascinated with the use of storytelling in her work. During her MA at RCA she became interested in more immersive narrative experiences and began working with spatial forms. After a few years of working with clay, and whilst working on her practice-led PhD she began exploring a technique of following the material and using the sensory experience of the coastline to shape her work. Letting accidents lead the way in her craft has guided the way she creates work, and now, working with students, she has built courses which use that very same sense of journey and the bonds to the local environment as a way to explore the art form.

Rebecca Elves teaching the class about glazes
Rebecca Elves teaching the class about glazes

From 19-21 July, Rebecca ran a workshop at The Margate School during which students paid attention to experiences of the coast. They walked the shoreline and observed the visuals as well as the smells in order to immerse themselves within the environment of the sea. They then produced drawings of interesting surfaces and shapes which would later inform their work with clay. The students were also encouraged to scavenge and collect natural materials from the beach such as seaweed and shells which may be used later in their work.

During the course, Rebecca taught some basic hand building and slab building techniques, whilst also embracing the accidental things that organically emerge from the creation process. As with Rebecca’s own technique, the students were encouraged to let the clay take the lead in the formation, without being too concerned about creating any pre-imagined form.

Each of the students created their very own unique vessels and experimented with incorporating the foraged materials to see how these would affect the pieces in the kiln.

After the vessels had dried overnight, Rebecca taught the students to apply glaze in a greenware state whilst continuing to still allow any accidents to happen, and giving up as much control to the process as possible.

The final pieces will be kiln fired at The Margate School and we’re all looking forward to seeing what works will emerge.

“The process is most similar to how we work on the MA course at The Margate School, where we use lots of different processes to help people to find new things in their practice, and each other, and in the world”

In October, Rebecca will be teaching the Maker Object module of The Margate School’s European Fine Art Masters course where she will encourage students to co-create with the shoreline, working with the idea of symbállein, or “putting together”, taking broken fragments of pottery and looking at how they echo with the landscape, as well as using the rhythmic and embodied practice of walking through the environment. Students will then go on to make plaster reliefs of these fragments, followed by 3D scans, 3D prints and finally the creation of ceramics inspired by these techniques.

“You’re translating what you’re attracted to, and in that process there are these slippages that allow you to find ways to create in other mediums”


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