Dynamic techniques for sculpting animals with clay with Susan Halls

Pottery and ceramics

Ref: SSS10550

Suitable for all

Join waiting list

Course full - scroll down for other

About this course

Interpret animal imagery using a plethora of hand building techniques and drawing exercises. Investigatory working will liberate your ideas and forming methods so that they play a more significant role in your interpretation. A raku firing will enable you to complete some pieces.

Course Description

Pottery forming techniques are varied and exciting. Slabbing, pinching, coiling, doweling all have a different aesthetic voice – apply to sculpting animals and you’ll find the forming method has played a significant role in the end result. Used individually and in combination, demonstrating the impact of techniques is at the core of this workshop. Working in two- and three-dimensions on a variety of different scales, wall-mounted, free-standing, clusters and group projects, you will be encouraged to take risks in this intense and productive week.

A minimum of one day will be allocated to raku fire and finish pieces, you’ll also have the option of using slips and oxides to colour work before bisque firing. There will be a loose, experimental drawing element to the course – doodling ideas to explore sculptural possibilities and encouraging you to express ideas beyond literal interpretation.

No solid modelling is used, all pieces are constructed hollow occasionally adopting a simple external armature, allowing you to work more effectively and with more immediacy. Electric heat guns and the use of stoneware paper clay increase the possibility of faster working and a more spontaneous approach to interpretation. Demonstrations will be ongoing and personal assistance and advice always available.

Animal structure and anatomy will be discussed as this should inform and underpin much of your decision making. However, the goal is not to make a realistic copy of an animal but to capture the spirit of the creature through re-interpretation of form combined with respect for the forming technique.

The aim of this course is to demonstrate the important role of techniques and how each has its own voice affecting the final appearance of the sculpture. Training yourself to consider the method of making before you begin can help achieve a more successful outcome. Other intentions are to show how basic drawing can play a vital role in helping to interpret and extend sculptural ideas. To think about design and stylisation rather than make life-like copies and to work with the benefits/constraints of the medium.

By the end of the course you will have gained enough confidence and experience to continue developing ideas independently. The techniques acquired on the course can be adapted to create other kinds of clay sculpture, such as figures or abstract forms – they can also be utilized for making large or small scale vessels. You will also have a basic understanding of raku/smoke firing.

A feature of the Summer School is an immersive learning experience with more time to develop your creativity and embrace further opportunities for creative development beyond your chosen course.

Several early evening creative sessions (5.10pm - 7pm) are planned throughout the week. Extra activities will differ this year in response to social distancing. A detailed timetable for your Summer School week will be given to you on arrival. This will include:

• Short inspirational talks by tutors and displays of their work

• Sign up early evening tutor-led drawing sessions in the garden

• Time to relax or explore in the tranquil West Dean Gardens

• Take a break from your course with some free time on Tuesday afternoon, from 3.30-5pm

• Informal end-of-course group reviews and displays of students' work in studios


Timetable for Summer Schools

Several evening events are planned throughout the week, a detailed timetable for the summer schools will be given to you on arrival.

Arrival Day

Residential students to arrive from 4pm, non-residential students to arrive by 6.45pm.

6.45pm: Welcome, followed by dinner (included).

8 - 9pm: First teaching session, attendance is essential.

Daily timetable

Classes 9.15 - 5pm, lunch is included.

From 6.30pm: Dinner (included).

Evening working - students may have access to workshops, but only with their tutor's permission and provided any health and safety guidelines are observed.

Last day

Classes 9.15am - 3pm, lunch is included.

Residential students should vacate their rooms by 10am please.

Course Materials


  • All clay and firing costs (large work in size and quantity may be charged extra). Basic tool kits are provided in the pottery for use during the course.

What students need to bring

  • Any sketches or doodles of animals that you have done in the past or in preparation for the course, though not necessary.
  • Overall/Apron (preferably cotton or laminated fabric)
  • Basic pottery tools if you have them – especially a potter's knife
  • If you have already or can acquire, strong cardboard tubes, like those used for posting or similar. Various sizes are useful, though preferably longer and larger such as 50cm long x 15cm wide.
  • Small sketchbook/notebook and pencils.

Available to buy

  • Available from shop:
  • Pottery tools, pottery knife (basic pottery tools are provided for use)
  • Art materials, if needed
  • Wood or plastic ruler
  • Natural sponge
Firing and glazing options: 1. Leave any raw, finished pieces that you wish to keep, for biscuit firing, basic glazing and re-firing by the College, for collection within six months. 2. Leave raw, finished pieces for biscuit firing at the College. You can then book a place on a Glazing Day and glaze your own work (allowing four weeks for your work to be biscuit fired). This work will be re-fired after glazing and available for collection within six months. 3. Take away your unfired pots for firing and glazing elsewhere.


Susan Halls

Susan intended to study illustration, but beguiled by the art school's ceramics department she jumped ship and has never looked back. After two years studying for her MA she established her London studios, moving to the USA in 1998 where she continues to teach and make sculpture.


Residential option available. Find out accommodation costs and how to book here.

Courses of interest

Sign-up to be the first to know

Sign up to our Short Course enews to hear about new courses, late availability and get creative inspiration delivered straight to your inbox.