Organic sculptures in clay with Sarah Villeneau

Ref: S4D33437

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About this course

Explore abstract form using handbuilding techniques of coiling, slabbing, pinching and extruding while experimenting with different textual effects, incorporating non-clay elements into the clay. Play, exper i ment, create to make organic sculptural works.

Course Description

This course will introduce you to a variety of handbuilding techniques that can be used to create abstract organic sculpture - slabbing, coiling, pinching and extruding. There will be an emphasis on working with the clay with an open mind and an experimental approach, responding to the clay’s inherent tendencies and expressiveness, letting the clay guide you as well as you guiding it. You will have the opportunity to squish and squeeze, tear and pinch, bash and stretch and texture the clay with all manner of objects. You will also be introduced to the possibilities of in-corporating non-ceramic elements pre- and post- firing.

Your tutor will share their processes, inspiration and key influences through an introductory talk and powerpoint presentation on the first evening. On the following days there will be demonstrations of each of the processes described above, with clear instructions on the use of tools and equipment, eg slab roller, extruder and whirlers.

Starting with guided play, you will collectively explore pushing, pinching, stretching and texturing clay to see what effects can be achieved. As you become more confident with the processes you will be encouraged to start working towards a final piece/s combining some or all of techniques that you have learnt and using the sample pieces that you have made for reference. The tutor will always be on hand for guidance and advice, with a selection of books and images for reference as well. We will finish each day with a group sharing and review.

As you will be looking at organic form for inspiration we may explore the outdoor environment at West Dean for ideas - weather permitting! Of course, you are welcome to bring your own source material to work from.

There will be the opportunity for simple decoration of the final pieces with oxides and once fire glazes ready for firing at the end of the course.

This course is part of our materials week. Our February themed week of short courses for 2025 focuses on CLAY, led by talented artist-tutors:

Sarah Burns – Nature's alchemy: clay resist printing and indigo dyeing

Helen Miles – Classical mosaic making

Grainne Reynolds – Jewellery using silver clay

Sarah Villeneau – Organic sculpture in clay

Gilbert Whyman – Sculpting from life – figure and portrait

Laura Dennis – Mixed media landscape painting on clay board

Each course explores a different aspect of using this versatile material and how it may be used in a variety of contemporary practices.

Each tutor will be invited to give a short talk (10 minutes) about an aspect of their work relating to the theme of the week on Tuesday evening at 5.15pm. Participants will also be encouraged to visit other courses to see work produced across the varied approaches offered in the week.


Arrival Day - this is the first date listed above

Courses start early evening. 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 for residential students).

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 are to vacate their rooms by 10am please.

(This timetable is for courses of more than one day in length. The tutor may make slight variations)

Course Materials


  • On this course the tutor will supply some of the materials including:
  • Objects and textiles to create texture
  • Materials to add to the clay for textural effects
  • On this course the College will supply clay and once-fired glazing materials. Other equipment required is provided for use on the course in the pottery studio.
  • The cost of clay/glazing materials and firing costs of work made – large work in size and quantity may be charged extra.

What students need to bring

  • Apron and covered non-slip footwear
  • Notebook/sketchbook
  • Pen/pencil
  • Objects/textiles for imprinting in clay (optional)
  • Your own source material (optional)
  • Pottery tools, if you have your own
  • If you plan to take your unfired work away with you, please bring plenty of packaging material, boxes and bubble wrap to ensure its safe journey home.

Available to buy

  • Available from shop:
  • Pottery tools, wooden and loop tools
  • Natural sponges
  • Brushes
  • Sketchbooks

Additional information

Firing and glazing options: 1. Leave a selection of your most successful raw finished pieces for biscuit firing, basic glazing and re-firing by the College, for collection within six months. 3. Take away your unfired work for firing and glazing elsewhere. Please wear appropriate clothing/aprons for the workshop or studio, this includes stout covered footwear (no sandals or open toes).


Sarah Villeneau

A selected member of Craft Potters Association and Royal Society of Sculptors, Sarah has more than 20 years of experience teaching in formal and informal settings. She completed an MA in Studio Ceramics at Loughborough University in 2014.


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

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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 advance your learning with our BA (Hons) Art and Contemporary Craft: Materials, Making, and Place (six years part-time). 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.

Interested in a career in woodworking?

Our Foundation Degree specialising in Furniture is designed to give you well-rounded woodworking theory and craft skills to become a self-employed maker or craftsperson, to continue your studies in higher education or to find employment in the creative industry sector. Find out more