Archive for April 1st, 2017

Workshop: Figure Sculpting with Kassandra Bossell

This one day class at Sydney Community College in Rozelle was engrossing and satisfying. Kassandra is a warm, supportive and encouraging tutor. For me it was a wonderful combination of my recent learning in life drawing with my interest in developing my work toward three dimensions.

Our material was clay (Keane’s white raku), and just a few simple tools. We were given the task of modelling an elephant to introduce us to the clay. It is so pleasant to work with. This really brings the haptic element to work – very welcome to one with a history of working with textiles.

Then our model arrived and we were introduced to the work process. The model posed on a table set in the centre of the room. Touching and almost surrounding it were more tables, with just a short gap at one corner for access. We worked on boards, 10 of us distributed in a circle around the model. After a short period we would move to the next position, reorient our board, and continue working. Eventually we would work our way around the circle and have seen the model from every angle (we could climb up on stools for a top view).

In the first pose we were to focus on the torso – no limbs. For me this made apparent a difference to drawing. Normally you’re fighting to ignore what you “know”, to draw from observation. For this sculpting I found using my own knowledge and experience of the body was helpful, especially when an arm obscured the torso.

However what we know is always a dangerous thing. Some of the heads in the class looked more like a ball balanced on a short cylinder, and I think virtually all of us had the head too small. Kassandra asked us to focus on the head and how it sits on the body in our third attempt.

A reclining pose raised new problems. Parts of the body were pushed around or hidden by cushions. It was difficult to avoid having the body look like it was emerging through the table.

Throughout the day Kassandra continued to introduce new ideas, or refinements of technique. We needed to think about proportion, weight, volume. Light shows form, and I love the way light almost seems to caress this clay (I haven’t seen it fired, but presumably it could look quite different).

There was a wide variety in results. Some students used transformations, interpretations – definitely not literal representations. I tried hard to reproduce what I was seeing. I also noted again that I naturally use an additive style, building up material rather than carving out.

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The timing of poses varied. First time round I think we had 2 minutes at each position in the circle. Later it was generally 4 minutes and sometimes completing two circuits but moving two positions each time. We all became more and more reluctant to move on, always wanting to do just a little more.

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In the final pose of the day the model was hunched forward, putting a lot of weight on her arms. Without an armature my work kept sagging forwards. Kassandra showed me how to build up and strengthen the arms. In theory I could work on the clay when it is dry, fix up the shaping a bit.

A week later and the clay is far from dry. Sydney has seen a lot of rain, but none of the winds and flooding the north has experienced. Kassandra finished the workshop with a lot of information on how to prepare the work for firing. I haven’t decided yet which if any I will take to be fired. There’s also the question of finish. I never had time to blend in the extra material as I was adding it so the figures look very patchy, a little Frankenstein’s monster. I actually really like that, the way light is broken up, and wouldn’t want to do a lot of smoothing or try to “correct” any mistakes.

No hurry to make a decision – but I was in a hurry to book into Kassandra’s next life sculpting workshop. Given my place is secured I am happy to recommend the class (link) to you all.


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Fabulous figure sculpting workshop with Kassandra Bossell!

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