Course Review by Jane McGuire
Forget everything you’ve ever thought about taking an art class and step into Lucky’s studio. Feeling like I was entering into an artist’s cavern, from wall to wall all I could see was paintings, newspaper cuttings and student’s work. She welcomes me (and my irritating cough) with a cup of camomile tea and we quickly got down to business, what did I want to make today? Looking around me, it was difficult not to get overwhelmed with the vast creativity around me. Clearly sensing my trepidation, Lucky holds up an owl sculpture and tells me they are a great starting block and even beginners can create one in their first lesson. Instantly relaxing I got started as everyone around me caught up as they worked. It took a matter of minutes to dawn on me, this was more than a weekly lesson, this was a community that had made me at home; ideas, stories and the week’s worries crossed the artist’s table.
With a lump of clay in front of me, seeing an owl was a little tricky. Lucky tells me to start with the base and I quickly get used to the feel and movement of the clay. Moving onto the body, I get a little lost, my owl looking less like a bird of prey and more like a friendly snowman. On hand to guide me through, Lucky provides me with a book of owls to model from, building up the clay and then using art knives and tools to press into sculpture and create a feathered effect. Kind of like using play dough as a child, there is something quite therapeutic about using my hands to make my sculpture, listening to the stories of the rest of the class as they worked on their own projects around me.
Using a rolling pin to press out the wings, the beautiful thing about working with the clay is that when something goes wrong, it is very easy to squash things down and start again. At various points the design changed – the owl needed a longer tail or a smaller head. Whenever I lost my way, Lucky was quick to jump in and make things look easy as she manipulated the clay in simple moves, getting me back on track. The atmosphere is relaxed and although everyone else is clearly more skilled, feeling intimidated didn’t once cross my mind as my owl came to life.
Leading the way
It’s undeniable; the studio’s heart lies in its teacher. There is something about Lucky that instantly puts you at ease. Whether it was her kiwi accent or memorable laugh I’m not sure, but her enthusiasm is infectious. An artist herself, she exhibits her own work and tells me she has been teaching for thirteen years now. Her students are aged four to Iris, aged eighty six, working opposite me. The life and soul of the class, Iris rolls out her clay and get’s started on a plate that she decides will be her grandson’s Christmas present. Lucky tells me some of her students have started as children and have grown up coming to her classes, now attending as young adults and it’s easy to see they come back week after week.
Lucky is always on hand to help, whether it was helping me make a beak, or assisting another student perfect the glaze consistency before applying it to her plate. Over the course of the lesson my owl, my neighbour’s bust of her granddaughter and Lucky’s sculptural leaf started to take life. Asking Lucky if she had received training tells me she had to go on a course to learn the technical elements of using a kiln, but the rest has always come naturally. As she shows me round her own and her student’s work, I constantly see new things I hadn’t noticed before, whether it’s an adorable rabbit created by a five year old or one of her own beautifully glazed hares.
Like a childhood art class, but a lot less restricted, Lucky’s students learn something new every week. Showing me some canvases from her Tuesday evening painting class, she laughs as she tells me on one side of the table sits an investment banker from the city, on the other sits a biker using painting to recover parts of his memory after an accident. ‘In what other situation would these two people sit down and have a chat?’ As I look around at my fellow classmates I realise Lucky is right, the beauty of a class, be it sculpture or Spanish is sitting down and chatting with people you would pass on the street.
Everything gets a name once it is finished, Iris tells me, before naming my owl Oswald. As I look up at the clock and realise the time, I leave feeling like I have caught up with old friends and am in no rush to get back to the office. Whether it’s painting or sculpture, Lucky is tutor worth visiting. As for Oswald, I have left him in safe hands for a few weeks and will go back and pick him up after he has come out of the kiln.