The Way Things Are


During this term we will be focusing on developing an understanding of the visual language that is intrinsic to the mediation of ideas within the subjects of Sculpture and Environmental Art (SEA). At times SEA has been described as non-media specific. This does not mean the complete dematerialisation of the object or that the focus is purely conceptual. Rather, this allows for developing the most appropriate way of mediating ideas, bringing form to them through a robust understanding of media, materials, processes and the ‘way things are’. To do this successfully requires an openness to explore potential materials and processes along with a focussed tenacity to dig deep to gain the expertise required to realise your ideas.


Reg Butler. (1913 – 1981) opens up the enormity of this task when he speaks of sculpture as:

“The anatomical organisation not merely of human beings but of animals, plants, bacteria, crystals, rocks, machines and buildings.  The simplicity and complexity of their forms, their articulation, the disposition of stresses and strains in living and non-living structures.  Recognition of the qualities of things; their hardness and softness, smoothness and roughness. Recognition of unities and similarities, rhythms and analogues, differences. The character of space, the definition of space, the penetration of things into space.  The nature of illumination, its determination of what we see (as opposed to what we know otherwise than by vision from a static point in space).  The way our reading of experience is controlled by the means by which we perceive.” The Language of Sculpture, William Tucker.

Study for Woman Resting 1950 by Reg Butler 1913-1981

Study for Woman Resting 1950 Reg Butler 1913-1981 Purchased 1959

Reg Butler was part of a new generation of post-war sculptors that came to prominence when they exhibited at the 1952 Venice Biennale. Their departure from the then tradition of carving in stone or wood to the uses of new industrial materials and processes of the time resulted in new kinds of forms and techniques. This opened up the language of making from the weightiness of form towards the development of a language that appeared more ephemeral in nature. The task is even more enormous now with new ways of making becoming available continuously, from digital visualization to rapid prototyping……………

We start this project by looking at how things are made. What processes and materials are used to produce the objects in the world around us. The project acts both as an induction into the safe use of our workshops and as an introduction to the world of things. An exploration of the language of making.

The project is delivered through three workshops, Wood, Metal and Casting. Wood and Metal will be in the Reid Building, while Casting will be held in the Haldane.

When not in the workshops, spend time using your sketchbook looking at the way things are made through drawing. Use drawing to analyse and disassemble the object. Use the library and the Internet to research and explore further processes of making.

These workshops will allow you to explore in a practical hands on way how things are made. You are encouraged to dismantle objects forensically to learn their secrets….their histories. Record this process through drawing in your sketchbook and document the process of remaking and naming.

When doing the Wood-Metal session, please bring in both a wooden object and something made from metal. You will be asked to take the object apart and to re-assemble it as a new ‘thing’. So don’t bring in your favourite piece of furniture! Your object could be a drawer, a table, a box a chair, a tin box, a bucket…..if in doubt, talk to a member of staff.

For the Casting workshop, bring in a number of small objects in a range of sizes to work from. You will not be using all of the object, this should just give you some choice when you start the workshop. The casting workshop can at time be a messy place to learn, so ensure you dress for a working environment.



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