Bristol’s Best Bits: Clay Workshop at Studio Upstairs

As I have mentioned previously countless times on this blog, I adore learning new things. I could happily wake up and learn a new skill every single day if it were at all possible; this weekend I tried my hand at spoon whittling at End of the Road festival, and the week before I had the chance to get stuck into a clay workshop at Studio Upstairs, as they are the charity partner for this year’s Affordable Art Fair, taking place in the city this weekend.

Based by the Bristol Marina, Studio Upstairs are an arts charity who provide a space for creative therapy for adult members who experience mental or emotional difficulties. Through workshops, creative community and a shared environment which members of the arts space can use, anyone going through challenges can come and work through them with the help of artistic expression.

Reading up on what they provide for people, I was very interested to pay them a visit and see what they do in person. The workshop which I was taking part in was using clay to create pots, with a focus on containment; whether it be containing emotions or as a space to store wishes for the future, the vessel would be completely unique and imbued with personality by the creator.

After an initial meeting with the clay and the textures it provided, the first of our pots was made using the pinch pot method. From pushing and pressing to opening up the clay to make an organic shape, it was nice to see the differences in others’ pots at the end. Mine happened to be one of the shortest and widest, which I’m sure is saying something subliminally… or perhaps not.

After pinch pots we moved on to a different method – coil pots. Using a firm round base, layers of snakey-looking clay are stacked up to a desired height, then decorated by the maker. I couldn’t really get this one looking as I wanted it, to be honest, and found this process a lot more frustrating than the first. I think it was something to do with the prescriptive, methodical approach, rather than just squishing the clay and hoping it turns into a pot shape.

I suppose that was the whole point of this workshop, though – to work through emotions in a creative way through making, and trying to make sense of the whole thing. I’m grateful it’s taught me a thing or two about my artistic processes.

If you fancy your hand at creating something, Studio Upstairs will be running workshops at this year’s Affordable Art Fair, which runs from the 8th – 10th September (this weekend!) with a private view on Thursday 7th in aid of Studio Upstairs. I made a video of my time at the Fair a couple of years ago here, whilst trying to pick something out from the huge range on offer, from prints at the £50-60 mark, to pieces up to £6000! As well as using clay, there will also be a painting using collage workshop for you to get stuck into, and any tickets bought through Studio Upstairs will directly benefit their charitable cause. Buy your tickets here.

Thanks to Studio Upstairs and the Affordable Art Fair for having me – I was invited along for the purpose of this review but all words and opinions are my own.

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