In December 2013 eight clients joined Nick Garbutt and me on a unique sculpture/photography safari. Clay experience was not necessary and our group ranged from clients enjoying art and wanting to try something different to those who sculpt as a hobby. My building technique is simple and straight forward, so that even novice sculptors can see the animal take shape quickly, helping to build confidence and provide feedback.
We were all inspired by the spectacular game drives. We observed wild dogs, buffalo, huge prides of lions and more. My clients were understandably keen to capture what they had seen in clay.
Thank you so very much for organising such a flawlessly beautiful experience. I may never get over it. I want more, more, more. I’m inspired, Nick! Your passion, enthusiasm and curiosity is contagious.
We were using local Zambian clay which ranged in texture and plasticity from very sandy and unforgiving to very sticky and strong. The warm temperatures coupled with a gentle breeze meant the clay dried out quickly, so had to regularly deploy water sprays to keep it moist. At the end of each day the animal sculptures were covered up in cloth and plastic and refrigerated.
One problem we hadn’t anticipated was the cheeky Vervet monkeys making off with the clay tools! What could they possibly find nutritionally or taste-wise from them?! We got most of them back by the way!
For me it was lovely to have such eager students, keen to absorb observational skills and modelling tips. They had time to make two sculptures and, on my suggestion, they kept the elephant sculptures until the latter part of the week. I felt it was important to build up their confidence in clay before tackling such a complex subject. Sculpting Elephants is difficult; getting the right shapes, proportions and movement. Luckily for us we had wild elephants we could observe just a few feet away from us. The relaxed environment was ideal for sculpting but when filming the clip (below) everyone fell silent!
All the animal sculptures were brought back to the U.K. to be fired. Firing a foreign clay was a little scary and test pieces were placed at the top of my kiln with a shelf separating them from my sculptures. They all survived and fired a bright orange. I then tried the test pieces in my rapid 30min Raku firing and they again survived. Subsequently I glazed and fired all the clients work and the result is they have come to life!