Exploring sculptural themes – figure, landscape, abstract with Jon Edgar

Modelling, casting and other techniques

Ref: SSS11644

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About this course

Explore sculptural form with clay, wire, wax, wood and the carved block. Take inspiration from the reclining figure, the South Downs landscape, the human head, music and emotions, experimenting and uncovering your sculptural voice.

Course Description

Work with a variety of materials, such as clay, wire, wax and wood, to explore sculptural themes and forms. Through a series of exercises and taking inspiration from two models, the surrounding South Downs landscape, music or your own emotions, experiment with how materials can express these ideas and forms. There is time to explore further in your chosen area.

The College has a rich surrounding landscape which has influenced many artists. You will explore three-dimensional form in response to five different influences, including the landscape, reclining figure, the portrait head, music and your own emotions, and to explore a variety of sculptural materials in different working conditions (field, studio, whilst moving etc.). On the landscape day you will need to be able to walk a gentle 1.5 miles in the countryside on decent walking ground. Through a process of structured exercises and experimentation, you will extend your field of enquiry – perhaps what excites you most – to develop a longer sculptural study and perhaps a larger sculpture (up to 24 inches).

Simple, single, sculpture materials provide a means of creating sculptural form without unnecessary visual complication. You will begin working with clay, plasticine, wax, wire, soap and balsa, assessing each material for its qualities until you find one to pursue your longer study. You will make four small sculptures (6-9 inches in size) in four different materials and then discuss, with the group, the different responses. The tutor will then support you as you develop a longer study from one of these pieces.

By the end of the course, you will have gained an appreciation of four sculptural materials and their use for modelling/building up and reduction/taking away from the block, where appropriate. You will also have an understanding of some of the sculptural qualities which contribute to strong form, and an ability to judge yours and others' work.

Summer School highlights:

The Summer School week is an immersive learning experience with more time to develop your creativity and embrace opportunities for creative development beyond your chosen course. 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

• A short creative experience session in another discipline/media or course

• An optional evening at the Chichester Festival Theatre (if pre-booked)

• An optional lunchtime tour of West Dean Gardens, the historic rooms at West Dean College, or West Dean Tapestry Studio

• A celebration dinner on the last evening, with a surrealist theme inspired by Salvador Dalí, who was one of West Dean founder, Edward James’ friends and collaborators. (Feel free to respond to the theme if you wish.)

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

As evening events are planned as part of the Summer School week, dinner is included in the course fee to enable all students, including non-residents, to participate fully. A detailed timetable will be given to all students on arrival.

(Please note that plans may be subject to change depending on GOV.UK guidance at the time.)


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 until 9pm, 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


  • The course fee includes the cost of providing a model, all clay and and firing costs.
  • Safety specs are provided by the workshop. All tools are provided.

What students need to bring

  • Comfortable clothing for ease of movement (and that you don't mind getting clay on). On the landscape day participants will need to be able to walk a gentle 1.5 miles in the countryside on decent walking ground, you will need to be prepared for rain. Come with an open mind. You do not need to be able to draw or sculpt, just to be enthusiastic about trying a little of everything.

Available to buy

  • Available from shop:
  • Wooden modelling tools
  • Cheesewire cutter
  • Sketch pad for rough drawing, pencil or pen
FIRING YOUR WORK Fill in the form supplied if you wish to leave your work at the College for firing. Please note that your work will be kept for collection for six months from the date we inform you work is ready for collection. Firing of raw, finished pieces: You have two options: 1. Leave any raw, finished pieces that you wish to keep, for biscuit firing by the College, for collection within six months. 2. You take away your unfired work for firing elsewhere.


Jon Edgar

A tutor with 10 years experience teaching at West Dean on both short and degree courses, he has recently created bespoke short sculpture courses for the degree course at UCA, Canterbury, Yorkshire Sculpture Park and The Sainsbury Centre for the Visual Arts, UEA.


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

Courses of interest

Further study options

Take the next step in your creative practice, with foundation level to Masters in Fine Art study. 

Depending on your experience, start with an Online Foundation Certificate in Art and Design (one year, part-time), a Foundation Diploma in Art and Design made up of 10 short courses taken over two years (part-time) or a Diploma in Art and Contemporary Crafts (10 three-day study blocks, over two years). All will help you develop core skills, find direction in your practice and build an impressive portfolio in preparation for artist opportunities or higher-level study. See all degree and diploma courses.

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