Take one talented teacher, add a group of like-minded enthusiasts, mix in the beautiful backdrop of the Cumbrian landscape and season with generous portions of wonderful food. Sounds good? The reality is even better.

Annie runs 2, 3 and 5 day courses from her studio in the beautiful Eden Valley. Together with fellow Kent Potter Angela Howe , I joined her 5 day course in August 2008. We chose to stay with Annie and Andy on a bed and breakfast basis, but you could find your own accommodation locally if you wish. Two other course members bought husbands along to enjoy the local golf courses whilst they potted!

The course started with a warm-up activity of making a “chicken in a basket”. Huge fun, and quickly turned into making a chicken, fish or dog in a basket, or even all three! The following sessions focussed on consideration of the human form – making arms and legs, modelling the head and facial features, introducing posture and attitude into the figure. Annie shared her techniques for using clay to create the appearance of fabric and to create texture. Although the participants came with extremely varied prior experience (I had never even attempted figurative ceramics before) we all achieved highly creditable results thanks to Annie’s individual and group tuition.

Over the five days the group (maximum of 6) also learnt how to create animal sculptures (hares, dogs and even a monkey) concentrating not only on form but also on achieving realistic poses, and how to create the appearance of movement and correct articulation. The use of stains and oxides was also covered to decorate finished pieces.

Throughout the five days, Annie showed herself to be a gifted and generous tutor, infinitely patient (and in my case she needed to be) who was always willing to cater for individual interests. Course participants could carry on working in the studio into the evening to finish projects or experiment further with individual work if they wish.

Each day a slap up lunch was provided for all course members by Andy and special mention must also be made of the afternoon tea and cake! We reluctantly left on Friday, several pounds heavier, with a box of treasured finished pieces, reams of notes and a determination to return.

Nicky Hanman

Aug 2008