Awarded by West Dean College of Arts and Conservation
Duration: Two years, part-time

This West Dean College Foundation Diploma in Ceramics is awarded in recognition of the successful completion of the two-year, part-time programme of six, three-day units, self-directed study and making, with a final 1,500 word essay. It aims to offer a comprehensive understanding of the material and will enable you to gain a wide variety of clay techniques from hand-building to throwing, decorating and glazing work, that will develop your skills and build up your own creative language. You will be supported throughout the course, enabling you to create work based around your own research and interests.

The West Dean Foundation Diploma in Ceramics is suitable for potters who have had some experience with working with clay, either at West Dean College or elsewhere, and are looking to commit to an extended programme of study and develop confidence within their own personal approach and inspirations.

Within each unit, an in-depth practical process will be introduced by the tutor, as a springboard to exploring techniques with individual direction to aid your development. The importance of health and safety and the running of a studio will be introduced alongside these units. There will also be talks on historical and contemporary issues in ceramics. Each unit will be held in the College’s fully equipped pottery studio that offers regular short courses with well-known makers of ceramics throughout the year.

Self-directed study

Between each unit you will be expected to develop techniques through the set projects, interpreting and developing your work in response to experimentation. You will bring this work to the start of the following unit for discussion and dissemination. This can be in two-dimensional and three-dimensional work. Therefore, between courses you will need access to a pottery workshop and be able to spend several days a week evolving your own work – this will need to include somewhere to fire your work. This maybe a home studio, evening classes or a community pottery studio. A tutorial session will be planned with the programme tutor between each course on the published date.

It is expected that students also keep a journal of their studies alongside a sketchbook, visual research and technical journal for their own records and interests for the duration of the Ceramics Diploma programme.

By the end of the first three units, you will have built your proficiency and confidence in hand-building and throwing methods, with an introduction to surface decoration and glazing. This work will inform your own pathway in units 4-6, where the work will evolve through self-directed development, progressing into glazing and intermediate techniques.


You will also be required to submit an essay following the successful completion of the requisite six units of study. The essay must be completed within two months of completing all six courses.

The essay will consist of a 1,500 word reflective account that underpins your own development and research, and demonstrates the link between your overall experience of the Ceramics Diploma and your future pathway, with evidence of historical and cultural research relevant to your own practice.

The Programme Tutor will discuss how this written work may be presented.

Programme overview

Year 1

Unit 1: Hand building techniques - Pinching, coiling and slabbing
15 – 18 January 2023 
Interim virtual tutorial for Unit 1:  Wednesday 15 March 2023

Unit 2: Throwing and turning
23-26 April 2023
Interim virtual tutorial for Unit 2: Wednesday 14 June 2023

Unit 3: Colour and texture - Decorating, relief, slip, sprigs and glazes
9-12 July 2023
Interim virtual tutorial for Unit 3: Wednesday, 30 August 2023

Year 2

Unit 4: Large works - Throwing with multiples/slab building
15-18 October 2023
Interim virtual tutorial for Unit 4:  Wednesday 6 December 2023

Unit 5: Advance glazing - line blends, oxides and stains 
14-17 January 2024 
Interim virtual tutorial for Unit 5:  Wednesday 6 March 2024

Unit 6: Self-directed making with tutorials
21-24 April 2024 

Fees and funding

The course fees are payable in advance for each year of study

Year 1: £1,476 (non-residential, covering all three units – payable by 6 December 2022)
Year 2: £1,476 (non-residential, covering all three units – payable by 6 December 2023)

The course fee (£2,952 in total) includes clay/glaze materials supplied for use during each three-day unit held at the College, and the virtual interim tutorials. It will be anticipated that as you have access to firing facilities elsewhere, that you will take most of your work made on the courses home for firing.

Accommodation for a three-day course, including dinner and breakfast, is currently available from £312 (single occupancy). Please see current accommodation costs - specific to the timing of each unit.

Entry requirements

The diploma is open to beginners who have had relevant experience in making ceramics and are familiar with the terminology, or those with some experience who require a structured course. You must also have:

  • Access to a home or community pottery studio and firing facilities, to develop your work between courses
  • A commitment to attending all six units at West Dean College on the dates published for this enrolment
  • Apply with evidence of your current work, skills and interests in ceramics.

How to apply

There is a selection process for this course. Students must complete and return the Application Form and the Questionnaire by 15 November 2022.

An informal interview on Zoom with the Programme Tutor will follow on 22 November. Before places are confirmed by the end of November. Following confirmation of your place, the Bookings Office will contact you for your payment of the first year of study.

For standard Terms and Conditions, please refer to our website. A specific condition of enrolment is a commitment to attend and pay for all six units, by the due date.


Tanya Gomez

Tanya Gomez graduated from the Royal College of Art and is renowned for her vibrant large decorative vessels. She teaches from her studio in Lewes, East Sussex and exhibits throughout the UK and Internationally. Associated with the Craft Potters and Contemporary Applied Arts.