What you say about us
This is the second time I’ve done one of Simon's head clay courses, this one being the stage 2, 5 day course. I was totally hooked after the stage 1 course last year and couldn’t wait to come back to see what I could do next.
For me, it was more of an internal struggle this year, I had certain expectations of myself and wanted to improve but it wasn’t flowing, doing a head a day was a real challenge before moving on to a head in 3 days. Sculpting is a truly mindful practice that can’t be forced, and with Simon's patience, brilliant guidance and encouragement you get there - and the sense of achievement, what ever the result, is addictive. The friends you make along the way are ones that you will come back to see again and again.
Then to top it off, Anna nourishes your body and mind with her delicious lunches, homemade cakes and biscuits. Simon and Anna make you feel so incredibly welcome, like one of the family.
There’s something deep in my soul that awakens when I’m here. So thank you. I’m already booked in for next year! S. Sheridan, August 2018
"This weekend nine of us headed to the Black Mountains in Wales for 3 days of intense time sculpting a head from clay. It’s the fourth year we’ve done it and it gets better every time. The deal is that you drop out of real life, immerse yourself in the most intimate time with a lump of clay and focus, focus, focus on something that’s right in front of you - something we could all do a little bit more of. It’s a joy. Simon is the most wonderful teacher and Anna plays host, cooking sublime lunches, cakes and biscuits. I cannot say enough about how wonderful it is, how uplifting, stress-relieving and warm the welcome is. Go. Now." M. Evans, June 2018
"It was truly amazing to spend a weekend with eight friends who, under the gentle guidance of sculptor Simon and nurtured by the wonderful hospitality and supportive presence of his partner, Anna, all managed to produce something they were proud of.
Sculpting requires a very intense and silent dialogue to take place between your eyes, your hands and of course your mind, because overcoming feelings of self consciousness and "I really won't be able to do this" insecurities is all part of the challenge. But when eyes, hands and mind are all connected - and you are truly in the flow - you can surprise yourself. Simon's presence is everything. He doesn't impose, judge, direct, or seek to over-influence, he just guides and encourages and quietly yet generously shares his understanding and experience of the process, thus helping you to be "the best you can be". He is a true coach of the sculpting process! L. Rodgers, June 2018
"We arrived home safely last night having spent the most fabulous 5 days with you both. Simon, I have always struggled with a belief that I am capable of being creative. You have built my confidence enormously and allowed me to enjoy the process of art and all that goes with it. My secret is that I have aversion to teachers!!! You are different and I celebrate anything with which you guide and help me. I don’t think you know just how brilliant you are as a teacher. It goes without saying that as an artist you are totally brilliant and the art you produce is beautiful and inspired." C. Duncan, May 2018
"Sometimes in life I just want to bottle the happy times and pop them on a shelf.... so I can enjoy the feeling again and again. I had a little dabble at sculpting a head in clay at the weekend, and now I need a bottle to save it all in!! Simon, don't change, you're the most patient teacher ever..... and Anna you cook the most wonderful food (and both of you so warm and welcoming.... ). Thank you so much, the Airstream, the Indian runner ducks... (hysterical when running!!), the people on my course... all bottle-able. (Hmmm, I'm going to need a big bottle!!) Looking forward to seeing you soon xx" J. Lennox, October 2017
"Thanks to you both for an amazing, challenging, friendly, interesting , wonderful warm weekend. I absolutely loved the journey, the house, the hosts, the people, the food, the conversation.... it was really special ( in a good way). Will definitely be back. Thanks to Simon for his encouraging approach. Perfect. Still buzzing!" J. Ashworth, October 2017
"What a great long weekend it was. Anna, your food - cakes, biscuits and salads were amazing. Homemade everything, bread, marmalade … delicious. Simon, I so enjoyed the sculpture course. It was lovely to be totally absorbed in creating with no distractions apart from the arrival of coffee and cake, and the lovely lunches.
You live in a beautiful area surrounded by all your animals - perfect, but very hard work for you both. You have got everything just right and I would very much like to come and stay again, hopefully for another sculpture course. There’s plenty of room for improvement in that area but even if I didn’t improve I have gained so much and I now feel I must spend more time creating and less time at the computer." L. Sharp, July 2017
"That was a truly remarkable experience for me, spending those five days with you all. I felt that Simon has given me a definite altered approach to sculpting, and at the same time I was well nourished with Anna's superb lunches, biscuits and cakes. Thanks to all of you for having been so encouraging and helpful and such good company as well.
As for the environment in which we lived and worked, it could not have been more inspiring. I can't wait to return for another session at some stage. Anna and Simon, you have excelled in every way with what you have set up in your new location. My sincerest thanks." A. Cotton, May 2017
"I hugely enjoyed my stay with you, and seriously want to thank you and Simon for everything you did for me. Simon puts so much care and thought into his teaching, as well as a huge amount of physical effort. I hope he felt the work we produced reflected all that patient guidance. I thought some of the mixed media pieces in particular were stunning.
You run such a wonderfully hospitable set-up, and I felt very much at home in the house. The lunches were brilliant, and it was really kind of you to include me in family supper on my last evening. A perfect way to round off the whole experience.
StudySculpture is unique. Don't change a thing!" S. Ross, May 2017
"Simon, you are a wonderful teacher, inspirational, supportive and above all, enabling. Anna, your calm hospitality and generosity of spirit infused the weekend with warmth and welcome. The food was interesting, delicious and plentiful and we couldn’t have asked for more. Thank you both so much.
Though my leaping salmon, and man with dog trying to get him to go for a walk were basic in the extreme, it was wonderfully absorbing to be taken up by some sort ofcreation which starts as an idea and is literally moulded from such basic earthly materials. Good for the soul. Learning the processes was also fascinating, with plenty of room for errors, which Simon normally found some way to get round. As a teacher his method of letting you self-learn and then teaching you to self-correct was brilliant, allowing us a hands-on approach to process that was refreshingly free of health and safety rules. Trust is a wonderful thing and he showed it in buckets!" B. Anstey, August 2015
"I have absolutely loved everything about my experiences with you two.....the company, the food and the gentle encouragement of Simon's teaching....it's just right for me as he is extremely knowledgable and gives clear guidance but manages to also give plenty of space to explore my own path.....I finally finished the stone piece I started in 2014 and exhibited it with the plaster head we did this year.....thank you Simon for all your help and thank you Anna for being the best cook ever and to both of you for being such amazing hosts." A. Nichol, July 2015
"I left the land of the flying kites and hedgehogs with a skip in my heart. What you do, you do well, and happiness and joy is part of the mix - so thank you.x" D. Trump, Sculpting the Head, June 2015
"The 'glamping' option worked brilliantly for me. Proper, comfy bed - so important after a hard day hitting metal at the forge - room to stand up and plenty of space to unpack my bag. And then being so immersed in the beautiful environment of Simon and Anna's land. We had some wild wet weather,( including a double rainbow!) but the tent was cosy and dry and the bathroom and annex only a few steps away, where we had a kitchen, lounge and a blazing fire for the evening." K. Kingston, May 2015
"Just wanted to say a huge thank you for the best 4/5 days I have had for a long, long time on your fabulous Metal Sculpture Course. The location is stunning - breathtaking views ! :0) You are both absolute stars - you work so tirelessly hard to make everything just right - thank you! Learning to use the forge was a great new skill for me, and once the basics have been learnt - your creativity can run wild. Simons' patience is endless - he is always there to help resolve tricky issues and get you out of a hole with practical help and guidance. The hours and days just whizzed by - I hardly noticed the Welsh rain as I was enthralled with my sculpting! You both looked after myself and Claire so well, nothing was too much trouble - we both felt very comfortable and at home staying in the Annex. The lunches were a real surprise - just delicious! I feel completely knackered, but totally inspired and can't wait to come again!" J. Burton, May 2015
"What a great combination you both make. The best tuition and mentor plus the best host and chef AND the best setting in the Country. All together the best workshops ever!" L. Herity, all our different courses, past 10 years....(we had to include that one, lovely words from someone who's become a dear friend and has been on lots of courses with us, including our very first one in 2005)
"I'm still on a cloud Anna! It was fantastic in every way and far exceeded my expectations, which were already high! Simon was an inspiration and so generous and patient with his help. You were wonderful hosts and everything from the delicious food to the accommodation and the other lovely students were truly exceptional! The slipper bath sounds very nice, I shall look forward to that, It's just a shame I'll have to wait 10 months! If you ever need a butler/furnace manager/cleaner/sous chef or chalet maid please give me a shout!" C. Leyden, Metal and Stone
"Many thanks to you both for a fantastic course; certainly the most useful, inspiring and relevant bit of training that I've done during my many years of teaching. It's so good to be tested and challenged, a great reminder of the the rigour of looking and being able to spend 20 odd hours working directly from life with like-minded people certainly refreshes the spirit." A. Davies, Sculpting the Head
"You two are really fantastic hosts. The accommodation was superb and the food was truly fabulous. I loved being in the annexe and it fitted in with the whole atmosphere of comfort and relaxation, between bouts of hard work. The stone carving course was just what I wanted....Simon is clearly incredibly talented and experienced and his clear, gently encouraging and guiding style was spot on for me. I will be back for more." A. Nichol, Stone Carving
"It's my third workshop with Simon and Anna. It seems more enjoyable every time. Simon has expert knowledge and expertise and an eye for tuition and guidance, whilst Anna's amazing food is as much a part of the experience as the sculpture itself. The workshops combined with the quietness and amazing views of the Welsh hills, work wonders to help wind down and let go." T. Corke, Stone Carving
"For four days in July I came to Wales to learn how to sculpt stone. I can't thank Simon and Anna enough. Not only did I have excellent guidance and teaching from Simon but I had amazing food from Anna. They make you feel very welcome and I have to say they are both some of the nicest and most inspirational people I have ever met. I had such a great time and I really hope to come back and do more courses in the future." S. Clark, Stone Carving
“I am continually in awe of what a group of human beings can achieve when put in a barn with a live model, some clay and access to gentle encouragement from Simon. All weekends should be as joyous as this.” A. King, Sculpting the Head
"Would thoroughly recommend this course to anyone who feels they would like to ‘have a go’, especially as I can't imagine there is another tutor like Simon with his enthusiasm for imparting his skills and experience in such an engaging manner. It is also great to spend such convivial lunchtimes with fellow pupils whilst eating Anna’s truly delicious fare. All in all, a wonderful weekend." T. Upton, Sculpting the Head
"Anna, we had a truly wonderful time, came away with the full intention of returning and we will. Simon is such a patient and talented man, we enjoyed our 'classes' so much, time just flew by. Your lovely lunches, coffee, biscuits and tea were very much appreciated but above all both of you have have a genuine, welcoming, kindness that made us feel at ease from the very start. Thank you for being so caring and for the fun we had. The whole family are a great team." J & D Blackmore, Sculpting the Head
"You really should be available on the NHS!!" J. Flatt, Metal Sculpture
"Many thanks indeed for such a great time spent with you - everything was really lovely and exceeded expectations - even the glorious Welsh weather!" G&K Ellis, Metal Sculpture
"Thank you both for the most enjoyable weekend. My mother (80) said it was wonderful & she will remember it forever! You both are excellent hosts & your artistic skill, Simon, is enviable. It really was a perfect escape & I would like to come every weekend!" S. Field, Sculpting the Head
"I am writing to thank you both for creating the place and the atmosphere which I enjoyed sharing so much and so deeply. All the time I was there and coming home I felt immensely calm and happy, knowing that this feeling would inevitably fade but pretty clear about why it happened and could happen again.
As someone who has spent decades immersed in adult education as a provider and organiser it was a delight to be on the other side of the fence, experiencing such confident and effective delivery of an intense period of learning something brand new. I still find it difficult to believe I was standing staring at a lump of clay for hours each day with such complete absorption and profound enjoyment. As I said to you Simon, I will never see a human face again without a sense of how it is constructed and how that spark of individual personality and life is manifested with the subtle differences you helped me to see and to bring to life in clay, however falteringly.
It was lovely also to find so many points of interest with the other learners and with yourselves as time went on. I was very affected by the personal warmth of you both." M. Neville, Sculpting the Head
"Thank you for a magical weekend. You were both wonderful hosts and I couldn't have enjoyed myself more. I came away from the course feeling totally spiritually refreshed, as if I'd had a long holiday. Having never attempted sculpture before I really appreciated your insight and teaching Simon, especially your calm implacable manner." P. Roberts
"Having never even used an electric drill before, I approached the metal sculpting workshop with trepidation. I needn't have worried. As soon as I met Simon and Anna, I knew I had chosen the right course and the right teacher.
Simon is a true teacher. A title I rarely give, but truly deserved in his case. Throughout the 4 days, he was patient beyond belief, inspirational and had the rare gift of being able to take my rambling ideas and coax them into reality. Even though there were several students on the course, Simon ensured that we all had the individual attention we needed. By the end of the workshop, I had not only been able to produce a sculpture, but through Simon's belief in my abilities, went away with a new found confidence in continuing my creative explorations. Thank you Simon & Anna." B. Ashford
"My Christmas present lived up to and exceeded expectations! It was really exciting to try something completely new and with Simon's outstanding guidance, to end up with something recognisable as a sculpted head! The working atmosphere was just right and we had a very pleasant group." D. Cove
"Because I run workshops myself I know that it takes a lot of work to make them as seamless and relaxed and enjoyable as you both do. I am really glad I came along, modelling the head has really given my inner artists’ confidence a boost, there is something magical that happens for me and I will be back I’m sure. And I loved your photos, it is really nice to have images of us all at work and looking so serene." J. Fewster
"Simon is a really excellent tutor and I love the way he constantly walks around helping everybody if and when you need it, I love that approach and have had experiences in the past where tutors left you to it completely and I didn't learn a thing! Thanks Simon you were brilliant." S. Claridge
"We wanted to thank you for such a great three days, you Anna for the really great and filling lunches and humping all that greatly appreciated tea and coffee up to the workshop. Simon, what can I say? Shelagh and I had the greatest three days we have had in a long time with your superb and humorous instruction in the sculpture of the clay head. Neither of us have ever tried anything like that before and we have, thanks to you, become totally hooked on the sculpture scene. You have no idea how completely over the moon Shelagh feels about being able to achieve something artistic with her limited vision. The last year or so have been very depressing for her and to be truthful I hadn't recognised the fact until after her first day on the course when she felt so uplifted by her achievements. So Simon, a really huge thank you for that!" T. Chandler
"If you are looking for a place that will really nurture your creativity then look no further. Simon is great teacher who is happy to support you in bringing your ideas to fruition. I spent a fabulous four days with Simon and Anna on a metal sculpting workshop. I had no experience of metal working and Simon made it very easy for me to get started and learn the basics. I came along with an idea of what I wanted to work on and Simon helped me turn it into a reality that I was thrilled with. I found Simon a delight to work with; some teachers take over, Simon doesn’t. He will advise on technique, help out where necessary whilst all the time making sure you do as much as you can and keep true to your original concept.
Apart from the quality of teaching one of the things which differentiates StudySculpture workshops from other sculpture workshops I have attended is the beauty of the cottage and the fantastic lunches provided by Anna. Whilst Simon makes beautiful works of art in stone and metal Anna makes works of art in the kitchen. Anna’s homemade soups and salads are not only truly delicious but beautifully presented. These are the kind of lunches that you want to linger over; if the courses weren’t so inspiring you’d never want to leave the lunch table. I will definitely come back; I’m just trying to decide which course to do next." J. Fewster
Excerpts from our archived visitors' book:
"This is my second visit to Simon and Anna (previously stone) and I cannot commend or recommend these courses highly enough. The whole process was hugely, monstrously enjoyable - a total immersive creative experience. This comes with, if you haven't done the course or this work before, a surprising excitement and adrenaline 'buzz' as you develop your work. Simon tutors you through the sculpting challenge with a style subtly tailored to your needs at that time, and the whole course is relaxed, friendly and great fun. His style is directional when required but observational and supportive to allow you the necessary time to learn from your close observation of the subject and your inevitable need to refine your work. All this is married to a location which is beautiful, relaxed and inspiring, and Anna's superb food and generous hospitality. Finally, and I think this is very, very valuable - you leave the course with an indelible imprint of Simon's enthusiasm and real encouragement to continue practising and developing when you return home". N. Grew - Sculpting the Head
"The whole experience was just perfect. You both made me (and of course Monica and Kate) feel very welcome. The lunches were delicious. Simon's enthusiasm and relaxed, unpatronising teaching style is extremely encouraging and confidence building. I was able to produce something which has given me great pleasure and satisfaction." A. Poole - Stone Carving
"The course had absolutely everything I was hoping for and much more. It is so rare as an adult that you have the time, or can find the justification, to spend four whole days indulging in something just for you. I came away buzzing with a new-found enthusiasm for all things creative and it really has made me re-look at how I spend my free time." A. Donovan - Metal Sculpture
"Simon's teaching was encouraging and confidence building and totally unobtrusive. He has infinite patience and managed to give us all individual attention. I came home with a work of art to be proud of when at the outset I had no idea if I would be able to achieve anything. I am certainly inspired to carry on sculpting". S. Williams - Sculpting the Head
"This weekend was really important for me. I was condemned by every art and craft teacher as being unsuited and unskilled in all things artistic. Simon's consistently encouraging and positive teaching style increased my confidence and ability and at the end of the weekend I created a sculpture that I am delighted with." J. Coldridge - Stone Carving
"Simon, you were the best possible teacher, extremely patient and encouraging. We all learnt a huge amount from a standing start and I certainly am greatly enthused to continue the good work. Anna, thank you so much for the delicious lunches". M. Tuely - Metal Sculpture
“This is paradise! 3 days’ indulgence in creative activity, a wonderful, inspiring environment and relaxed purposeful tuition. Who could want anything more?”
E. Heeney, Cardiff – Stone Carving
“We have times in our lives when we can say life does not get any better than this. My weekend has been just that. Thank you.”
K. Thomas, Leics – Stone Carving
“Wonderful location, excellent course and very warm welcome. Thank you for 3 fantastic days!.”
M. Bianco, N. Yorks – Stone Carving
“I felt I learnt a lot and was very pleased that I managed to achieve a presentable finished product by the end of three days…. I would also like to thank you especially for the welcome you gave us, and your hospitality. Those lunches in the garden in the sunshine were really pleasant and the surroundings there are so very beautiful.”
K. Victor, Herefordshire – Stone Carving
“A great weekend. Anna’s cooking and homely environment coupled with Simon’s skill and knowledge and quiet encouragement made a great combination. I’m looking forward to a return trip.”
A. Bremridge, Staffs – Stone Carving
“Thank you for an excellent and inspirational course. Relaxed and friendly atmosphere; beautiful environment; delicious food and a perfect balance of instruction, guidance and simple practice.”
N. Grew, Staffs – Stone Carving
“Thank you for a hugely enjoyable course. Working in the open air in such a beautiful green valley was a real bonus, and I am delighted with my progress. I had done a little stonecarving before but had never dared attempt a relief; yet in just three days I carved my own relief figure with curves, varying depths, crisp edges and contrasting textures. Simon showed us how to use the tools, explained the techniques and worked with each of us to develop our work. Everybody responded to his passion for sculpture and his talent for bringing out the best in people. Nobody felt left behind or over-directed and he gave each of us the confidence to believe we could do it. The result was that we all worked hard, used our time well, enjoyed each other’s company and finished with a piece that we were proud to take home.”
T. Bloom, London – Stone Carving
“Not only was the course inspiring and informative but the whole time spent with you and your family made us feel very welcome and part of your happy family – you are an example to us all…. I particularly enjoyed Simon’s method of teaching – encouraging us to look rather than correcting our work – this pushed me further than I expected – I have learned so much more than I thought possible.” B. Colman, Halifax – Sculpting the Head
“The course was a hit, you have a really good thing going there. The teaching was excellent. My work has come on leaps and bounds since I got back. I would recommend you to any art student.” G. Defries, London – Sculpting the Head
“The metal sculpture weekend was such a great experience for me, it brought back all the fascination I felt as a child at the blacksmith’s, along with learning a small part of those skills. Simon is a talented teacher, bending to all our different needs so well, and the food and general hospitality were second to none.” L. Greswell, Monmouthshire – Metal Sculpture
“It was much more than I could have hoped for, thanks to Simon’s patient guidance and encouragement for me to start from nothing and actually make and take home my own sculpture!” J. Clarkson, Cheshire - Metal Sculpture
“I want to thank you both for what was a truly beautiful weekend in every way. The course was excellent – only drawback is I want to do more!… I felt so welcome in your home and so comfortable and relaxed. It was a unique experience. My sculpture has pride of place on my living room slate fireplace against a cream wall….” E. Barnes, Hants – Metal Sculpture
“You have a really magical home in Wales and that is partly you all, and partly the location – it’s brilliant. You give so much of yourselves to the courses and the weekend, that really made me feel special (and all of us felt the same) – thank you.”
“The sculpture course was excellent. It is really quite an intense and valuable experience working on one head for three days, having to confront the fact again and again that you can’t see what is in front of you. Simon’s sculpture and teaching experience, plus very positive interventions, make the whole process possible and enjoyable. Add to that good company, good food and an unbeatable location, and the course is a “must”.”
“Everything about the weekend was perfect, so thank you – for all your hard work and care.”
“I had such a great time at the weekend. Thank you so much for both the tuition and the hospitality. You are so lucky to live in such a fabulous house in such a wonderful setting, and even though it was only my second attempt at sculpting the head, I think I have made really good progress. This of course is largely due to Simon’s encouragement and gentle persuasion to strive for accuracy whilst not losing the creative interpretation.”
“Great combination of people and a really great atmosphere (as always) – amazing the diversity of carvings produced (am thrilled with mine). I can’t wait to sign up for next year.”
"Simon gave direction when needed on specific methods, but more importantly the kind of direction that facilitated viewing in a different way, getting past being stuck in the detail - and improved skill followed from that. I had previously completed two heads and felt stuck at a particular level. The finished model I ended up with was significantly better than the previous ones I had completed.
"The tuition was general when setting us up and then specific to each person's particular skill and vision as needed. Each person had a unique approach and varying levels of confidence and need, and Simon adjusted his teaching and feedback to each person on the course. Unlike other courses, I didn't feel adrift but neither did I feel over coached. Apart from the skilled teaching, the energy Simon brought to the class meant that there wasn't an overriding ego pushing people in any 'right' direction, rather it was a more classical approach to teaching - which is one of bringing out inherent talent and ability. The consequences of this meant it was a nice group, with a good concentrated and focused vibe, time flew and each person finished with a piece they were pleased with."
"I cannot praise the teaching of Simon Cooley highly enough - he had students of different ability and temperament, and we all really enjoyed his three days of teaching and achieved good results.
"Simon both inspires and enables his students, he made me feel that I could do it and I did. He gives very clear guidelines without inhibiting creativity and inspires his students to have the confidence to fulfil their potential."
"Although I have done lots of life drawing over the years it was quite a different challenge working in 3 dimensions. However Simon's tuition simplified the transition and his step by step method of teaching made the basic principles easy to understand and ensured that the foundations of sculpting in clay were easy to learn. Also Simon's sense of humour and enthusiasm encouraged and inspired me even when things were not going absolutely according to plan.
"I really enjoyed the course and learnt so much in just a few days. I most definitely want to do more sculpture in the future and I am sure it will also help both my drawing and painting from life as Simon has helped me to "see" form and volume from a new perspective."