An introduction to sculpture – modelling and carving with Jon Edgar

Ref: SWE32031

Location: West Dean
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About this course

A practical introduction to sculpture, explore building up by modelling wax and clay, and taking away by carving clay and introducing soft stone.

Course Description

On this practical introduction to sculptural form, you will explore techniques of modelling with wax and clay to ‘build up’ your form, and carving clay to ‘take away’. The aim is to create works with balance and energy. Discussion is encouraged and will support your continued exploration. This course is a good stepping stone to one of the longer sculpture courses.

Materials and techniques covered:

Use of wax and clay as additive sculptural modelling materials

Use of clay and (small) soft stone as sculptural blocks to introduce carving

Observation and sensitive modelling from life with a range of appropriate tools

Use of sketchbook drawing, note-taking and doodling, linking to sculpture

Maquettes, sketches or planned models for sculpture

You will learn through experience, reference and group discussion. Topics are introduced with practical exercises, which everyone will participate in and discuss together - a flexible balance of practical and discussion.

On the first evening, there will be a lighthearted introductory gallop through recent sculptural history, supported by slide material and other references, followed by group discussion.

By the end of the course, you should achieve:

A basic grounding in non-conceptual sculpture, and the ideas of form and mass being viewed ‘in the round'

A feeling for how sculptors use reference material, such as the figure, environment or the imagination

A feeling for sculpture being viewed as a balance between the material and the sculptor's intention

An understanding of three or four materials and their qualities and practicalities for modelling

Use of two of the above (including small pieces for kiln firing); others to be explored after the course

An understanding of two or three materials and their qualities and practicalities for carving

Use of clay for a carving exercise (and selecting a soft stone to take home)

An understanding of sculptural devices; using light and shade, proportion and how sculptures might 'work' (or not)

You do not need to be able to draw or sculpt for this course, just to be enthusiastic about trying a little of everything. Have a look at the tutor’s background on, so you have an idea where he is coming from in his own work, which spans stone-carving and modelling in clay.


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


  • Clay, firings and other materials
  • All tools are provided for your use, and all project materials are provided with the exception of stone.
  • Safety glasses are provided by the workshop.

What students need to bring

  • Sketchpad for rough drawing
  • Pencil or pen
  • Come with an open mind, and clothing that you don't mind getting clay on and that is not too restrictive for movement while working.

Available to buy

  • Available from shop:
  • Sketchpads, pencils and pens
  • A variety of stone will be available and can be bought individually. Prices will depend on the weight and are currently around £2 – £3 per kilo (£1.50 per lb).

Additional information

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


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 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.