Alternative Monday 13 – Carol Christmas

Since 2013, the first two weeks of our year-long programme for students excluded from mainstream education have consisted of workshops led by ceramicist Carol Jacobs.

Carol graduated from Loughborough College of Art and Design in 1983 with a BA Honours Degree in Ceramics, before completing an MA in Ceramic Design at Staffordshire University in 2009. In the period between, Carol undertook a number of residencies and began teaching at a variety of schools, colleges, youth offending organisations and universities.

After the long summer break, much of the momentum we have built up with our students can be lost, with the young people out of a regular routine and without time spent in the company of adults or each another. These sessions always provide the opportunity to take out any frustrations in the pummelling of wet clay.

Work in Progress
Work in progress, students from The CE Academy with Carol Jacobs

Carol’s inventive techniques always manage to elicit amazing work from everybody. Previous themes have included:

  • Creating plates, bowls and vessels inspired by microscopic images of bacteria, human cell structures and synaptic exchanges
  • Using different tones of clay and slip to create repeating patterns
  • Pressing clay into paper doilies to create intricate textures
  • Combining red and white earthenware clays to create tonal ranges, which were rolled, laminated, plaited, woven and twisted together to produce a variety of effects
  • Wedging varying quantities of different oxides into white stoneware clay to create a palette of colours
  • Creating patterns inspired by tree canopies, twigs, leaves and areas of dappled sunlight, which developed into gargoyles based on one another’s (and sometimes our) facial characteristics to create some truly grotesque results
  • Imprinting clay with everything from toys and pinecones to handmade stamps and springs, to create textured grounds that would form the basis of urban or rural landscapes, with hills or valleys – and sometimes alien crash sites

When the beautiful and perpetually surprising post-kiln results are delivered, they are like late and forgotten Christmas gifts – arriving in the spring term to great delight (and a little consternation when the names marked in clay have gone a little awry). The fired clay is transformed into colourful, glazed pieces. Hazy memories are met with shouts of joyous disbelief – did I make this?! Wow! Any momentum lost over the festive break is quickly reestablished.

I am already looking forward to next year’s Carol Christmas.

Sophie Cullinan

Work by students from The CE Academy working with Carol Jacobs
Work made by student from The CE Academy working with Carol Jacobs

Look out for more Alternative Monday posts every fortnight, looking back on some of our favourite alternative provision activities.