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A Masterclass in Art and Life

On Monday 22 February Oxfordshire artist, Beatrice Hoffman, presented a full day masterclass at Cokethorpe, in which pupils were taught how to produce clay busts in the style of Roman sculpture. She believes that sculpture provide a valuable opportunity to convey key life skills beyond the realm of the Arts:

‘Sculpting the head is an excuse for teaching many things – the pupils are learning lessons much broader than sculpture. I teach them not to be intimidated by failure; not to fear mistakes, but to embrace them! The Arts are particularly qualified for imparting these life skills, because in other subjects there’s more of a clear cut right and wrong; here, there’s just a long road to the final solution with many missteps along the way. I’m there to give them courage, but also to lead them into deeper water. I expect them to get frustrated, but I step in and show them the way forward.’

This hands on approach goes down well with the pupils in such a tactile subject, with Beatrice modifying pupils’ artwork on the fly, in order to demonstrate techniques for crafting clay:

‘There are four key skills I am trying to convey; being conscious of and closely observing what you see; creative skills to learn the right approach to creating the sculpture; sculptural skills involved in representing an object in three dimensions using volume, outline and texture, and ceramic skills related to understanding and handling clay.’

GCSE Art pupil, Maggie (Fourth Form, Gascoigne) enjoyed working with her hands in the masterclass and developing her skills of observation, working directly from an image to create her sculpture. Hamish (Fourth Form, Queen Anne) found that he was most successful with sculpting the bone structure of his bust; he believes that the piece created under Beatrice’s supervision will go towards his final GCSE project.

One A Level Art student, Ed Woolley (Upper Sixth, Queen Anne) also attended the masterclass alongside his usual lessons, coming away with a more complete understanding of 3D proportions. He enjoyed the opportunity to experiment with sculpture and his final piece was highly impressionistic in style.

Beatrice Hoffman of Sculpture Workshops Oxford, hosts regular sculpture classes for ages 8 and up in her Garford studio, on weekends, holiday and some weekday mornings; she will also be part of Oxfordshire Arts Week 2016 (site number 271/2). She exhibits and sells sculptures for the home and garden in a variety of sizes and materials. More information on her sculptures and classes can be found on her website at









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