Figure sculpting in wax with Anna Gillespie

Ref: SWE31327

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About this course

Model a figure in the time honoured sculptural material of wax. Learn the essential skill of building an armature, in this case using aluminium sculpture wire.

Course Description

You will be working with an experienced female life model to create a figure or figures using traditional modelling wax – a time honoured material which allows for both detail and accuracy, as well as expression. You may also add in ‘found objects’ from around the site.

You can choose whether to use the model for an observed study or simply as a starting point for something more expressive. The model will be moving between several poses, so there will be a choice as to the mood and theme of the work you create. Starting with simple three-dimensional sketches in wire and wax, you will move towards a more considered study or expressive piece as the course progresses.

Wax is an excellent modelling material to make both accurately observed or more expressive figures, and has the advantage over clay of not needing to be covered, so it doesn’t dry out. It can be kept for years, taken moulds from, reworked and eventually recycled.

A key part of this course will be learning to make simple, but effective, armatures (under frames for sculptures) out of aluminium wire. These don’t require welding and can be accurate enough for small figures, but also, once mastered, can be scaled up and used with other materials, such as plaster or clay, so it is a really ‘transferable’ skill to take home with you. Wax is also ideal for working on delicate elements of the sculpture, such as fingers, as it doesn’t break off around the armature in the way that clay can do.

Your tutor will encourage individual expression in your sculpture making, as well as demonstrating techniques, giving group tuition and one-to-one support.

By the end of the course, you will have a completed a figure or figures with an armature and learnt many transferable skills for making sculptures using wax. The skills learnt, particularly the armature making, are very transferable in sculptural terms, being useful for modelling in clay or plaster, should you wish to after the course.


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 College will supply all of the materials, including wax, armature wire and wooden bases.
  • Large work in size and quantity may be charged extra.
  • The model who will sit for the course.

What students need to bring

  • Sketchpad should you wish

Available to buy

  • Available from shop:
  • A good variety of general drawing materials

Additional information

Please wear appropriate clothing/aprons for the workshop or studio, this includes stout covered footwear (no sandals or open toes). Possible equipment restrictions in tutor absence.


Anna Gillespie

Anna Gillespie is a figurative sculptor with some 30 years of experience, primarily showing her work in galleries although in recent years she has enjoyed collaborating to create photographic and dance works and installations.  She has worked in a variety of mediums including found tree materials such as acorn cups which she uses to express her love of the natural world alongside that of the human figure.  Anna is a member of the Royal Society of Sculptors and a West of England Academician.


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 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.