making a mess

In my previous blog, I mused about how to provide opportunities to get lost and enjoy the process within the MA that I’m leading at the School of Jewellery. The answer (one of the answers, anyway) is life drawing, it seems.

This was the first of a series of drawing activities across a number of schools, to encourage students to venture out of their home campuses and get to know peers from elsewhere in the faculty. My contribution was a life(-ish) drawing session on body extensions, held at the School of Jewellery on Wed 11 Oct. Taking our cue from Rebecca Horn’s 1970s work, we started off by restricting the parts of the body that permit us the most control over our movements and the marks we make: after a quick warm-up, we drew with non-writing hands, and then with no hands at all. There was plenty of giggling at this stage, as students used mouths, feet and crooks of arms to produce drawings that were surprisingly recognisable as me, the sitter.

Left to right: drawing with the mouth (Xingxing), feet (Tilly) and I honestly don’t know what, but I love the speculative nature of the lines!
Left to right: drawing with the mouth (Xingxing), feet (Tilly) and I honestly don’t know what, but I love the speculative nature of the lines!

All that was left, at this point, was to introduce the students to the range of materials I’d brought to the session: drawing media (including charcoal, marker pens, ink pens, pencils, chalk),A1 paper, poster paint, garden canes, lining paper, elastic bands, string, straws, balloons, disposable overalls and wooden skewers.  The focus turned to exploring the movements that can be made with parts of the body that might usually sit below the level of conscious awareness, parts of the body that you have to find other ways to pull into focus and documenting these movements with a range of media and approaches.

Two illustration students, Rickie and Alice, played with the idea of collaborative drawing, producing a pair of portraits:

Alice, by Rickie; Rickie, by Alice
Alice, by Rickie; Rickie, by Alice

Elsewhere, some of those present adopted quite a meditative approach, spending much of the remaining hour with the same media and the same tools.

Left to right: drawing with straws; bouncing a ball of string dipped in poster paints from a chain of rubber bands; rolling a straw/skewer dipped in paint.
Left to right: drawing with straws; bouncing a ball of string dipped in poster paints from a chain of rubber bands; rolling a straw/skewer dipped in paint.

Tilly threw herself into the session, and made a number of drawings with some really sensitive marks.  I had a play with a handful of ink pens held on my fingers with rubber bands (until they went blue!), creating a negative image of an intriguing, scissor-like clamp.

Left to right: drawing with feet, and mouth/string/chalk; negative drawing with pen/ink.
Left to right: drawing with feet, and mouth/string/chalk; negative drawing with pen/ink.

The feedback about the session was fantastic: ‘mind-blowing!’, ‘pushed us to try new ways of drawing’, ‘a beginning for me’.  My favourite comment was from a participant who said, rather poignantly, ‘I was able to experiment more freely than I usually do, without fear’; I like to think that the open-ended, messy, exploratory nature of the session created a space in which students could get lost in playful making and drawing.

To finish off with, a final couple of images from the session:

Drawing with chalk and (improvised) chopsticks (Elizabeth).
Drawing with chalk and (improvised) chopsticks (Elizabeth).

Many thanks to all those who took part.  Here’s to the next one!

Drawing with eyes closed (Yiji).
Drawing with eyes closed (Yiji).

 

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soj

The School of Jewellery is based in the Jewellery Quarter in Birmingham and is the oldest specialist jewellery school in Europe and the only School in the UK dedicated to the art and craft of jewellery design and manufacture. We offer courses in practical Jewellery and Silversmithing, Digital Jewellery Design, the design of Jewellery and Silverwares, Horology, Gemmology and International Jewellery Business.

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