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In-person course

Creating ceramic animals courses - with James Ort & Alison Pink


About the Course

Spend two days learning how to make clay animals using a contemporary technique that is loose, expressive and breaks all the rules! The course is great for beginners and experienced artists alike. And the best part is that you can make pretty much whatever animals you like too.

James Ort and Alison Pink have been teaching this popular class together for a few years now. They specialise in a form of contemporary clay modelling which pushes clay to its limits – it’s a fast, easy to learn technique which brings life, energy and grace to the creations.

Over the two days you will be given a series of demonstrations that show you the key stages and principles of the technique. The rest of the course will be spent making your own pieces with the tutors’ guidance and support every step of the way. Once completed, your masterpieces will be dried out and then fired in our kilns. You will then need to return for a later glazing session to bring colour and life to your pieces.

Suitable for?

Anyone regardless of experience.

We generally limit the age to 14 years old+ though exceptions can be made where appropriate. Please contact James Orts and ask.

This course is for you if:

You want to explore your creativity but lack the confidence to do so on your own
You want to get away from it all and immerse yourself in a fun, creative environment
You want to experiment in clay but aren’t interested in pottery
You love animals
Pre course prep

If you have signed up for the course or are considering doing so then you just need to do a little preparation beforehand. In a nutshell you need to collect reference material on which your sculpture will be based (i.e. pictures of your subject matter from various angles).

You will be sent an automated email on booking which prompts you towards documents that help you prepare for your time here. If this does not happen then please email James before the course.

Need accommodation?

If you are travelling from further afield and would like to stay in the area for your visit then have a look at our recommend B&Bs and hotels. Click here for the list.

Return Glazing Session

Once you have made your creations on the weekend, they will need to be dried & bisque fired before they can be glazed. This means that you will need to return at another time to glaze your work, then another to collect the finished pieces.

I run various glazing sessions after the course, one of which you will need to book yourself onto. You book yourself a slot using a website called doodle – it’s very easy to do and you will be sent details of how to do this.

Beyond The Course

Having completed a clay animal course many of our students choose to explore clay further. They may come on another weekend course, start coming to our Creative Monday Sessions, evening sessions or carry on independently at home (you can bring your pieces here to be fired in our kilns).

If you will be redeeming a CraftCourses gift voucher on this course, the voucher code must be provided at the point of booking.

What's included in the price?

Informal, relaxed & attentive guidance for every student, provided by James Ort & Alison Pink
Step-by-step demonstrations covering…
How to build an armature for wall mounted animal heads and standing animals
How to apply the clay to best capture the animal’s anatomy and features
How to create expressive facial features and give your piece character
An outline of the firing process in our kiln room
How to glaze your work using underglazes on a separate session after the two day course

What is included in the price?

Two full days teaching (10am-4.30pm-ish)
A printed course handout outlining the technique’s main principles
Clay, firings and glazes
A glazing session once your pieces have been bisque fired*
Tea, coffee, biscuits/cakes
Use of a beautiful, purpose built art studio with all the equipment & materials you will need
Beautiful countryside setting

* James runs various glazing days throughout the year. You will be asked to sign up for one of these days once you have booked your place. Glazing typically takes between 2-4 hours to glaze but this depends on the artist!


James Ort at The Phoenix Studio
The Phoenix Studio
Chinnor Rd
Towersey, Near Thame
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What does this mean?

This craft course provider has been awarded Platinum status for receiving 50 or more 5 star ratings from previous students.

The Students' Choice award ensures that course providers get recognised for their efforts in the teaching and practice of UK craft.

They also allow tutors to gain valuable feedback on their courses and for new students to find the course that's right for them.

Suitable for

  • Accommodation offered
  • Advanced/pro level
  • Children
  • Corporate days out & team building
  • Engagement, birthdays & anniversaries
  • Hen dos
  • Intermediate level
  • Parking provided
  • Public transport
  • Romantic
  • Stag dos
  • Suitable for beginners
  • Teenagers
  • Wheelchair users

Available as a gift

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2 days plus a glazing day

Available dates:


In-person course
- - #26396

I have been on three courses so far and hope to book another for next year so that must tell you how much I enjoy it ...

The course is in a very relaxing surroundings and you are made to feel so very welcome.
Not being that experienced in clay modelling I just wanted to find something for me. To get away once in a while to spend the time with my own thoughts . To do this gives me that space, I relax and do my clay and my mind clears , I just love it.
James is such a wonderful teacher, kind and considerate, as is his mother who has tutored me too.
Highly recommended trying a course to anyone .

Response from The Phoenix Studio:

Ahhh what a lovely lovely review, thanks Deborah! Im so glad that we can help provide you with a nice environment to loose yourself in your thoughts and creativity. Yes please to you coming on more courses!

In-person course
- - #24747

Highly recommend this course, the surroundings are so relaxing, James and Alison are inspiring, and the clay animals you produce are almost unbelievable, your confidence just grows.

It's a full on day, with lots of fun, a great lunch break where you get to know fellow students, it beats any courses I've been on.

I'm looking forward to having more fun, learning new skills, and immersing myself in producing amazing animals in such a caring environment.

I'm looking forward to doing more at the Phoenix Studio, what a place.

In-person course
- - #24733

An amazing weekend with James and Alison from start to finish. Fantastic studio with plenty of space. Help and advice always available when needed. Great outdoor space for lunch with the chickens 😁
James and Alison gently encourage and lead you into creating your best work.
Can’t wait to come back again.

In-person course
- - #21068

I absolutely loved this course from the moment I arrived. The studio is in a lovely setting. It's well laid out and very organised, in a quirky, relaxed fashion, which put me instantly at ease. It was warm and friendly and even the chickens wandering around made me feel right at home.

The course itself was fabulous. James and Alison were amazing. They made it look effortless when in reality it isn't easy, but they were very attentive and were on hand to put us on the straight and narrow and I was amazed at the results, having never done anything like this before. It was quite intense, totally absorbing and a real tonic and I cannot wait to go back!

Response from The Phoenix Studio:

Literally one of the best reviews ever. Thanks too for the lovely email as well. It was great to see your work and style evolve over the course x

In-person course
- - #20721

I really enjoyed the course, it was so refreshing and therapeutic after spending so much of my time looking after my 2 children. I have done one or two short courses in the past but none like this one, I love the more free technique and this was the first time I'd actually ever seen a kiln! They're usually hidden and locked away so it was good to see especially as firing is quite an important part of the process.

Response from The Phoenix Studio:

Thanks for the lovely review Natalie! So glad you enjoyed your time here. You really got the technique! Can't wait to see them glazed!

In-person course
- - #20679

A really great 2 days; a fun, reasonably simple technique shown in demos, with plenty of one-to-one support as required. The setting is lovely with an enviable studio, perfect for losing yourself into the process.
I feel the course would be beneficial whether you're an experienced artist or a relative newbie, with little or no pressure and plenty of encouragement from excellent tutors James & Alison.
The other 10 people on the course were also lovely and helped set the friendly, warm tone of the weekend.
Many thanks, keep up the inspiring work!

Response from The Phoenix Studio:

Ahhh thanks for the lovely review Dan. A big thanks and I am so glad that you enjoyed the course. Looking forward to seeing Kendrick Lemur glazed and finished!

In-person course
- - #20643

Had a wonderful time over the last weekend! Thank God that James and Alison were there! Sooooo helpfull. Lots of nice people and a good rapport. Good luck in the future :-)

Response from The Phoenix Studio:

Ahhh thanks for the lovely review Alec! Thanks to you and Val for your continued support! See you soon for glazing!

In-person course
- - #19328

What can I say? Yet another amazing course at the Phoenix. Adding to the outstanding ceramic animals and wirework courses, and the Drawing Circus, the Jake Spicer drawing weekend was yet another winner. Jake is a master, and has a very gentle but effective way of getting the best out of people, making a fine double act with James Ort. Learned lots, really enjoyed the company of like minded folk, as well as spending time with Jake, lovely model Bella, and James. Thank you.

In-person course
- - #18298

What more can I add to all those glowing reviews - except to say they are all more than well deserved. What a hugely enjoyable weekend! Alas, I didn't produce my hoped for masterpiece - my fault for talking too much!! But I learned SO much - new techniques - lots of "tricks of the trade" and so many helpful tips which I shall find really useful for future projects. James's enthusiasm and good humour and Alison's gentle, constant encouragement make them an unbeatable team. This is one of the best courses I have ever attended. I cannot recommend it highly enough. 5* +++

Response from The Phoenix Studio:

Wow, that was an epic review Sherry! I normally have to pay my students to give me such a good write up ;o)

Thanks for coming and it was lovely to meet you. My Mum said it was great to see you too after all those years! x

In-person course
- - #17036

I've just attended my 3rd clay animal weekend. The technique James and Alison teach mean you get very fast results and I never cease to be amazed by the great pieces the entire class end up producing. It's suprising how much you can achieve in two days with great tuition (and home baked banana loaf!)

Response from The Phoenix Studio:

Ahh thanks for your email Lindsay! It's amazing how far homemade banana bread will get you!

In-person course
- - #17017

The clay animal weekend was fabulous. The demos were great and the teachers were so supportive and helpful during my modelling process. I struggled on day one but remembered it's not about the results it's about the learning and creating. On the Sunday I realised I had learned alot already and felt braver and more relaxed, so I just "went for it" and was really pleased with what I created. The environment is so lovely, with great light from the garden accompanied by the cockerel regularly having his say! It is such a beautiful place to be, hang out, create, relax, learn and let go of perfectionist inhibitions! And the people are always so lovely. This was my second visit - I did clay life-modelling last year. I look forward to playing again soon!

In-person course
- - #15930

I attended with my 15 year old daughter who wished that she could spend more days there. The Phoenix Studio is a beautiful, relaxed and friendly setting for a superb course. Highly recommended for the talented and patient tutors and for escape therapy!

In-person course
- - #14454

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In-person course
- - #14441

A great creative weekend. The studio is beautiful, well equipped and in a wonderful location. The resident chickens roam around the large wild lawns and we were even lucky enough to have lunch outside in early April! The tuition was brilliant. James and Alison were very thorough and made you feel very comfortable and confident. It was amazing what we were able to create in a matter of hours. James and Alison were always on hand to give instruction, suggestion and encouragement, and always in a relaxed, informal and very friendly way. The weekend was very social with a really supportive atmosphere. I will DEFINITELY be going back.

In-person course
- - #11946

Book it, book it, book it! You won't be disappointed. You will forget everything outside the studio and be totally immersed in learning new techniques and sculpting. I sculpt regularly anyway, but you never know it all. You can always learn new things and still be inspired. It's very refreshing to learn from a different angle and James and Alison are brilliant at what they do. It's also lovely to chat to others on the course and watch their creations come alive. If you fancy treating yourself or even someone else, just book a course. You will definitely have fun and enjoy yourselves.

In-person course
- - #10835

Had a really great time on the two day course with James and was amazed and very pleased at what I was able to produce as a newcomer. The turorials were inspiring and James and Alison were very patient and great fun to be around. Look forward to returning to finish the pieces. And such lovely surroundings at the studios - a perfect way to spend a weekend!

In-person course
- - #10833

Loved my two days at this workshop. James is so good at sharing his knowledge and demonstrating how to transform a lump of clay into a beautiful animal. I was pleased and surprised by my creations, having been helped and guided along the way by James and his, also very talented, helper Alison. Looking forward to my return visit for the painting and glazing session.
I would really recommend this workshop to anyone, experienced or not, who is interested in making animals from clay.

In-person course
- - #10299

I so look forward to James' courses! He and Alison are so enthusiastic and inspirational, and exceedingly patient. They work very hard and the preparation for each course is brilliant. Although we are all working hard on our sculptures, the venue is such that it lends itself to good comraderie, with the opportunity to lunch together (outside when the weather is good) and appreciate the wonderfully relaxing surroundings, with wonderful artistic gems dotted around.
Truly inspirational and much appreciated, thank you.

In-person course
- - #10298

This is a really excellent course. James gives very clear demonstrations and he and Alison are very good in guiding participants in achieving fantastic sculptures at the end. I brought two children (teenagers) with me and they really gained a lot from the experience and grew in confidence.

In-person course
- - #8775

A really wonderful course! The teaching was clear and helpful whilst allowing you to express your own style. Everyone was really friendly. It's a wonderful light environment with everything that you need to get to grips with a new skill or improve on your existing ones. Thoroughly recommend this course to anyone who has an interest in clay (or has ever been curious about it!)

In-person course
- - #8332

Just wanted to write to say a huge thanks to you and Alison for a great weekend course in your Phoenix Studio, such a pleasant venue. You and Alison are such patient teachers and were never too tired to answer any questions the group had. I can’t believe what I achieved with your demonstrations and the really helpful advice and tips given by you both throughout the course.
Excellent stress buster too with the best nights sleep I have had for some time !
Thank you both so much and looking to another course soon.

In-person course
- - #8305

James and his team (Alison) are talented, patient teachers, encouraging, inspirational, think way outside the box without losing you and are a lot of fun. They demonstrate each step before letting you loose but are always on hand if you need advice, ideas, or modelling help. Everyone worked at their own speed and produced animals of their own choice in very different styles. James could squeeze water out of a stone. He brings the creative side out in everyone.I will definitely be going back to that lovely large, light studio to have another go and - of course - recommend James' courses to anyone.
Thank you James and Alison for a great weekend.

In-person course
- - #8244

Wow! What a fantastic weekend I've just had on this clay animal modelling course with James Ort, I can thoroughly recommend it.
The weekend is a brilliant mix of demonstrations and practical, hands on modelling. We were talked through every step, from making an armature, applying clay and the firing process - and we were helped along the way by James and his lovely assistant Alison.
We were made to feel very welcome and encouraged at every stage - I cant recommend this course highly enough!
If I didn't live over 3 hours away, I'd be here all the time!!! Cant wait for the glazing session now!

In-person course
- - #6758

Leave you worries at the doorstep and get engrossed in clay! Had a second great weekend at the Phoenix Studio. It was so good in summer that I persuaded my artistic friend to come along this Autumn - but of course it was really an excuse for another weekend of playing with clay under the excellent guidance from Alison and James. They make it huge fun and inspire beginners like me and fledged artists to produce something they love. The whole group were supportive and enthused. It's excellent fun - but exhausting too. Thank heavens for lashings of tea and cake. And yes, preparing your "homework" really helps. Take lots of pictures with you - then get creative!

In-person course
- - #6741

What a fun way to spend a weekend - I learnt so much, along like-minded people, and James and Alison taught in such a fun, relaxed way - I would highly recommend this course.

In-person course
- - #6575

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In-person course
- - #6570

Thank you for such a wonderful weekend, I thoroughly enjoyed myself and found the whole process very rewarding. I think I may have caught the bug  and I am keen to build on what I have learned over the weekend. I can’t thank you enough for your patience, enthusiasm and clarity of instruction. I will be recommending your courses to everyone I talk to who may be interested.

In-person course
- - #6569

Many thanks to James and Alison for a very enjoyable weekend. It's a complete luxury to totally absorb yourself in such a satisfying activity for a whole 2 days.

In-person course
- - #6530

Fabulous ! When you first arrive and look at what previous groups have produced, it is a little intimidating. But the technique and the tuition means that by the end, everyone has produced two incredible sculptures. Prepare to be amazed - and exhausted !!!

In-person course
- - #5318

The Phoenix Studios is a place of magic I think. I've done two different clay courses there and thanks to the teaching style, knowledge and encouragement of the tutors, both times have come out with something I couldn't have dreamed of making without years of experience and hard toil. This sculpture course is completely engaging, inclusive and fun and you come out with TWO pieces at the end of it - I can't recommend it enough.

In-person course
- - #5315

This was my second course at the Phoenix Studio, and my first working with clay. It was a fantastic experience! Can't wait to apply the coloured glazes to my creations next weekend. James - and Alison who assisted him - were a wealth of information, thank you so much. As a wood carver I am used to taking wood off, now I have learnt how to build up an animal in layers, absolutely fascinating! Already planning my next creations!

In-person course
- - #5188

I loved my weekend at Phoenix Studio. First Phoenix studio is a lovely space to be in, light and airy with lots of tea and biscuits whenever you need a break. The other people on the course were friendly and there really was a warm supportive atmosphere. I had very little experience of working with clay, especially compared to some of the others and was a bit worried at the start when I saw what we were about to embark on! However, no need to worry, James explains things very clearly and balances allowing you to find your own way and being on hand whenever you need some extra help. Everyone finished the weekend with two amazing sculptures and a massive sense of achievement. Best of all, it made me believe I could make things and I have been more creative since as a result. I have just booked the wire course which I am very much looking forward to!

In-person course
- - #5157

Have just finished a course with James. Excellent and fun. Great opportunity to explore my creative side. Looking forward to going back to finish off my work by glazing my sculptures. Course was well balanced with instruction, demonstrating and hands on. One word of advice - prepare! Although James has reference material best to take your own. Alison who also help guide the students is lovely! Both James and Alison seem to know exactly what works when help is needed. Thankyou James and Alison for your patience and making the weekend an enjoyable experience.

In-person course
- - #4811

I highly recommend this Course with James.
Tution was clear and the support and help just excellent.
Absolutely amazed and thrilled with my creations
The studio is beautiful, lots of space and light.,
I will be back for more.

In-person course
- - #4798

Recently just started on clay and loved this course! Light Airy studio and James and Alison were very supportive. Learnt a lot and enjoyed it very much!

In-person course
- - #2036

This course is brilliant. James is so inspirational and patient. He is able to rescue any potential disasters with such ease that everyone completes the weekend with amazing pieces. We so enjoyed the weekend that my friend and I booked ourselves on the next available course as soon as we got home.

In-person course
- - #2028

James Ort`s clay sculpture course was the most attentive art course I`ve ever been on. His original and innovative away of working with clay was put across with boundless patience in the most comprehensive and patient way. I`ve never known a teacher work so hard to give so much.
Everyone in the group produced lovely objects. Marvelous!!

Thanks James, Val Powell.

In-person course
- - #2006

I really enjoyed this course. The Phoenix Studio is fabulous - lovely surroundings, inspirational art all around, fantastic friendly, supportive atmosphere, great facilities and plenty of tea breaks and biscuits. I went with three other members of my family, which was nice, but going on your own wouldn't be a problem as everyone gets involved with everyone elses efforts in a lovely, supportive way. I was amazed how much we got done in just one weekend. James has a talent for bringing out everyones creative side and encouraging them to acheive their best. As well as being pleased with my own efforts, it was a real pleasure seeing everyone elses, very varied creatures emerge.
I would definitely recommend this course to anyone considering it.

In-person course
- - #1723

Would definitely recommend this course, a fun, creative and thoroughly enjoyable weekend with some lovely people. With his friendly and supportive style, James is a natural teacher and helps you create sculpture you can be proud of. Look forward to my next time at Phoenix.

In-person course
- - #1716

James is an inspirational teacher, helpful & encouraging. When I first went to the Phoenix Studio I had no notion of being any good at ceramics: I was keeping my friend company on her course, but I continue to go back... I have developed my own style and ideas on how I want my pieces to appear; I'm still not very good but that's down to my essential lack of talent rather than anything else! It's always great there, and it doesn't matter whether you are good or bad at what you are doing as everyone's pieces have validity and indeed, artistic value - everyone is different, thank goodness. And the constant supply of tea and biccies helps the creativity flow as well!

In-person course
- - #1712

The course that I experienced has completely changed my approach to my own creativity. It's laughable now that I was so worried about my lack of artistic flair. James has perfected the balance of being inspirational but at the same time sitting back and allowing you to develop your own style. If you have any doubts about any stage of your work, he will 'chip in' and show you how to overcome the problem with his typical laid back style. I now attend one day a week and produce a steady flow of commissions thanks to James encouragement. There'll always be someone one stage ahead and one stage behind you and this gives you the perfect environment for creativity.

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