Seaside breezes summon the muse

11th August 2000 at 01:00
KEEPING up a 40-year-old educational relationship between Glasgow and a corner of the Cowal peninsula, 60 pupils from 24 of the city's schools have just completed a 10-day art summer school in the splendid 19th century Toward Castle.

Aimed principally at pupils working for next year's Higher Still exam in art and design, the focus this year was on design. All compulsory units were included, covering areas such as jewellery, furniture and website design.

Corinne Twaddle, a teacher at Lourdes Secondary, found that the castle gardens and nearby beach provided the stimulus for up-to-the minute design prototypes. Anna Larkin, who is entering S5 at Holyrood Secondary, was inspired by the Clyde coast seaweed to create small paper models of unique outdoor seats.

Audrey McDermott, a teacher at Bannerman High, says: "There is a huge demand on pupils to understand the whole design process. They have time to look at problem-solving in as many different ways as possible and get a much better understanding."

She stressed the advantage of the "unfragmented" full day's work at Toward in which students can talk to one another and share ideas. "They make huge progress."

Corinne Twaddle is working with students on lighting design. She welcomes the use of computers and digital cameras, incorporating the necessary element of echnology. One girl's layered shade was styled after studying a dusty pine cone. Other students have pulled ideas from beach barnacles and the castle's Victorian architecture.

In a neighbouring wood-panelled studio, Fiona Macleod, a teacher at Penilee Secondary, explains that her group of new S6 and pre-college students are experimenting with techniques and skills. Beachcombing has offered rusty metal, brambles and perished rope, inspiring ideas for silk painting and box decoration. "We encourage the students to talk about their work and videoed them at the start. They found that quite difficult."

Willie Nelson, Glasgow's development officer for art and design and the course co-ordinator, and himself a former student of Toward, says: "We use students' work as excellent exemplification to take into schools and for in-service training."

Other advantages are that students can complete the written component to the course and benefit from talks and practical sessions with practising designers. He would like contemporary designers who are former Toward students to contact him about future involvement.

The 10-day course costs pound;210 a pupil, and Glasgow contributes teacher time and pound;50 a head for materials. Staff in other areas are showing interest and Willie Nelson may consider extending the course's range.

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