• The Turnpike Pottery

Phoebe Collings-James: Creating our Spirit Animals with Clay

As the artists of The Turnpike Pottery, today’s session required us to think a little more abstract and introspectively, as our brilliant guest artist Phoebe Collings-James invited us to create our spirit animals out of clay.

In a presentation about her work, Phoebe explained that spirit animals play an important role in defining her identity as an artist, and allow us to symbolically communicate aspects of our inner personalities. After considering different behaviours, moods and feelings, we began to consider different animals and characters that embodied these traits in ourselves. We made some preliminary sketches to outline how we might make these forms out of clay, and then we got to work!

We used lots of different techniques and tools to craft our spirit animals, including an extruder to push the clay into long tubes, some as thin as spaghetti and others as thick as sausages. We coiled these long shapes into circular structures, which enabled us to work big and create our characters with strong structures. Holly and Hannah collaborated on a fabulous unicorn creature, which will later be painted with rainbow hair. Ruth made a deer with little antlers because she feels they are calm animals and quite shy, and said that she just winged it through the process!

Anthony really enjoyed this workshop and said, “It was interesting as I’d never thought about my favourite animal to capture my personality. The process really opened my eyes to different themes that artists use in their work, and I was able to express the way I feel on the inside about different animals.” Antony made an owl with angel wings and, over the next few sessions, wants to create a character influenced by the devil, which shows the two contrasting sides of human nature.

Lindsey invented her spirit animal as a wonderful combination of Medusa, a pug dog, a mermaid and a she-wolf. Explaining how she came up with the idea, Lindsey reflects, “I looked at what I wanted to be, how I wanted to be seen and how I feel. I combined a pug dog with Medusa, as I can be a bit scary sometimes but misunderstood!”

Words by Brit Seaton