Henry Moore or bust

The qualifications for a course on sculpting are a willingness to have fun and to experiment. There's no such thing as right or wrong, as Sally Staples found out from a group of chiselling, chipping students.

Maggie Ward, dressed up in apron, goggles and mask, is hacking furiously at a concrete block. So far it bears little resemblance to the delicate clay model of a classical girl's head that she made last week. But these are early days in the sculpture course, and Maggie's enthusiasm with her hammer and chisel is promising.

"Aphrodite, here I come," she giggles as she tackles her block with gusto. "I must say that if you've had a row at home, this is good therapy." Maggie decided to sign up for the sculpture course now that the two youngest of her three children have started university. "My husband has just retired and so I thought I would do something for me. I had absolutely no experience of sculpture at all. I'd done dressmaking and pattern-cutting at college but this is a completely new experience. And it's wonderful.

"Look at my homework. We had to carve something out of fruit or vegetables and I did this female figure out of a potato. I kept her in the fridge but she seems to have lost her bust ..."

Fellow student Neil Peters, 39, works as a literary agent and director of a publishing company, and after years spent promoting the talents of playwrights he decided to look at his own potential.

"I had done a bit of sculpture in art at school and knew I liked it. I wanted to do something tactile, and something that was more than just a hobby class. What I found here was a tutor who is very encouraging, and I have met a whole cross-section of people I would never normally meet in my work."

There are about 15 men and women on this particular further education course, at Kensington and Chelsea College in London. It is called Sculpture Materials and Techniques, runs from 10pm until 4pm every Tuesday for 30 weeks, and can take students up to A-level standard. But there is no particular pressure to achieve. The tutor allows most of his pupils to go at their own pace to build up a portfolio, and they are taught basic techniques in a variety of materials.

Both Neil and Maggie are anxious to point out that everyone is made to feel comfortable. No one is going to denigrate those first, self-conscious and sometimes embarrassing attempts to fashion something resembling a head out of a handful of clay.

On the day of my visit, while some students chatted constantly others worked quietly in a corner away from the group, either intent on a piece of work or, perhaps, finding the experience of sculpture a therapeutic one. At the introductory session students are asked to draw sketches of heads and then begin to mould them with the clay. Next they are taught to carve and reproduce the clay model out of a concrete breeze-block.

The tutor, Tim Beswick, said that sculpture courses now attract more women than men - a reversal of the situation 20 years ago. "Women approach it in a different way. I think they don't have the same expectations as men and are prepared to experiment more," he added.

"During the course we will be working with steel, plaster, wire, wood and 'mixed media', which can mean anything from string and brown paper to plastic bottles and teddy bears. I try to cover conventional approaches to sculpting, and to introduce contemporary issues.

"The first term is really about banging, sawing, sticking, cutting, and getting to grips with the sculptor's tools. Next term they will do a piece of sculpture on a theme they have chosen. It may be something like the beauty of snow or the sadness of Christmas. By the end of the year they will work independently.

"We start off having fun and trying to break down any fears. A common comment is 'I can't draw. I won't be any good.' People gradually gain confidence, because this is a safe, non-critical environment to develop and take risks. No one's going to say: 'You're not good enough for this class.'"

Jo Innes, a copper-haired 27-year-old with a model-like figure, is quick to confirm this approach. "People are so afraid of rejection, but whatever you produce Tim will always find the germ of an idea. I do a jewellery- making course, where you have to learn techniques and there is a right and a wrong. Here you can be creative and do what you really enjoy.

"I have travelled a great deal - I spent a lot of time in Africa - and have all sorts of ideas in my head. Trying to realise them in sculpture is like going on a journey. It's exciting, and it's what life should be like."

Where to learn

The 'Sculpture, Materials and Techniques' course is one of several offered by Kensington and Chelsea College in London (0171-573 3600). It costs pounds 145 plus materials, and there are reductions for the unemployed.

For advice on other sculpture classes, contact the Adult and Further Education department of your local authority.

News
people
Sport
FootballGerman sparks three goals in four minutes at favourite No 10 role
News
Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
Sport
A long jumper competes in the 80-to-84-year-old age division at the 2007 World Masters Championships
athletics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Sport
Radamel Falcao was forced to withdraw from the World Cup after undergoing surgery
premier leagueExclusive: Reds have agreement with Monaco
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvHe is only remaining member of original cast
Sport
Lewis Hamilton will start the Singapore Grand Prix from pole, with Nico Rosberg second and Daniel Ricciardo third
F1... for floodlit Singapore Grand Prix
Life and Style
Walking tall: unlike some, Donatella Versace showed a strong and vibrant collection
fashionAlexander Fury on the staid Italian clothing industry
Arts and Entertainment
Gregory Porter learnt about his father’s voice at his funeral
music
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
Life and Style
Children at the Leytonstone branch of the Homeless Children's Aid and Adoption Society tuck into their harvest festival gifts, in October 1936
food + drinkThe harvest festival is back, but forget cans of tuna and packets of instant mash
New Articles
i100... she's just started school
News
news
New Articles
i100
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
life
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
New Articles
i100... despite rising prices
Voices
Holly's review of Peterborough's Pizza Express quickly went viral on social media
voices
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Education

Early Years Educator

£68 - £73 per day + Competitive rates of pay based on experience: Randstad Edu...

Nursery Nurse

£69 - £73 per day + Competitive London rates of pay: Randstad Education Group:...

Primary KS1 NQTs required in Lambeth

£117 - £157 per day + Competitive London rates: Randstad Education Group: * Pr...

Reception Teacher - Lambeth

£117 - £157 per day + Competitive London rates of pay : Randstad Education Gro...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam