Surface safari – decorative ceramic techniques with Jenny Mendes, 23-28 August

Press Release: West Dean College of Arts and Conservation announce 90 new courses, including a focus on sustainability and traditional skills in their Spring/Summer 2020 programme

A new programme of over 400 Spring/Summer 2020 creative short courses at West Dean College of Arts and Conservation in West Sussex has just been launched. Many are informed by sustainable practices in arts and craft, and there is plenty of innovation alongside a resurgence in some traditional skills. The tutor line up is drawn from across the UK and internationally and this latest programme runs through to September. The diverse range of courses are suitable for beginners and advanced levels alike and include painting, ceramics, woodwork, photography, textiles and much more with gems such as Plastic-smithing and Fan making.

Among the new tutors, several focus on sustainable processes such as plasticsmith Bronwen Gwillim’s Plastic-smithing – creating jewellery with waste plastics (June 5-7/ £268). Other courses incorporate locally sourced materials or don't use chemicals - Sarah Burns and Nawal Gebreel both use eco-friendly printing processes with textiles – Hand block-printing with natural dyes (May 18-21/ £457) and Eco-printing with plants and flowers on paper and silk (May 27-29/ £277).

Other tutors use recycled materials and techniques that are sustainable; Celia Pym explores Creative mending – textile repair (April 20-23/ £381), while with tutor Isabella Whitworth, you can learn An introduction to using natural dyes (September 11-14/ £406). Another new course is Bowl carving from native wood with tutor Barn the Spoon (June 15-18/ £437) and The sustainable container – baskets from willow offers the opportunity to complete two or three projects from shopping or laundry baskets, to storage boxes with basketmaker Mary Butcher (May 1-4/ £399). Among the gardening courses with the gardeners from nearby Parham House learn how to Grow vegetables from scratch (June 7/ £128), while Tom Brown, Head Gardener of West Dean Gardens runs another new course Growing food under glass (13 June/£128).

Another theme is folk art with tutors teaching how to develop narrative contemporary work; Jenny Mendes returns to share Surface safari – decorative ceramic techniques (August 23-28/ £654); while new courses include Folk art carved animals with woodcarver Peter Clothier (September 25-27/ £285), Make folk art inspired dolls or narrative figures with automata maker Rachel Larkins (May 28-31/  £407), or make a textile collage with Folk art narratives – stitched and mixed media textiles with textile artist Anne Kelly (August 30-September 2/ £384).

The appreciation of Heritage Crafts plays an important role in the ethos of West Dean. For the second time, the popular Fore-edge painting course is programmed – which teaches students the special book art which is now an endangered craft skill (May 12/ £168). As Olena, a student on the previous Fore-edge course, commented: “Martin Frost’s amazing wealth of in-depth professional knowledge made it possible to achieve in only a day a Vanishing Fore-edge painting. It was a pure magic and most exciting day.”

You can also learn Oak spelk or swill basketmaking, which is a critically endangered craft from the South Cumbria fells, and is also on the Heritage Crafts Association Red List of Endangered Crafts (September 13-17/ £554), while also of interest is lettercutting in stone and slate (September 21-24/ £381). The revival of the endangered craft of fan making is being supported by the Worshipful Company of Fan Makers, with bursaries to attend a new one day course An introduction to fan making techniques (May 16/ £158).

Two new courses will be taught by experts who recently starred in The Victorian House of Arts and Crafts (BBC Two). Make a wooden steam bent lamp with Abdollah Nafisi of Nafisi Studio, and originally attended a course at West Dean (June 19/ £153), while An introduction to chasing and repoussé in copper with silversmith designer Bryony Knox (May 4–7/ £429).

Legendary textile designer Sarah Campbell, who has designed for Liberty will celebrate summer and colour with Painting freely on silks with inks and paints (May 24–27/ £428). Another focus on colour will be a new course Drawing with Colour with Landscape Artist Christabel Forbes (June 26-28/ £280) as will Tailoring – hand crafted ties and bow ties with Ian Scott Kettle (June 12–14/ £275).

New Sculpture courses include Sculpting the horse from wax with Vincent Gray (June 19–21/ £409) and Land art using natural materials with Dan Lobb (August 14–16/ £260).  

New Printmaking courses include Stencil solar lithography with Mary Dalton which uses photo- sensitive plates and is the perfect printmaking medium for those who enjoy free form stencil making (June 4–7/ £401), while Solar etching – intaglio printmaking with Jane Sampson is a safe alternative to traditional etching techniques (August 27–30/ £419) and Acrylic resist etching with Heike Roesel also uses old techniques of steel plates and copper sulphate (June 26–29/ £427).

For full details, plus information on accommodation, please visit

Bookings can be made online or by calling +44 (0)1243 818300.

West Dean College of Arts and Conservation has an international reputation and offers 800+ short courses a year, as well as part time block delivery and full time diploma and degree programmes to Masters level. For many students it offers a sense of escape to an inspiring community of creativity where they can discovers a new passion or realise creative potential.

Editor's notes