Frink School of Figurative Sculpture
The north side of the main studio. (Larger version, 100kb).
CREATIVE STOKE talks to
Rosemary Barnett, head of The Frink School of Figurative Sculpture, near Stoke-on-Trent.
CREATIVE STOKE: I get a sense that you're a very unique
institution, which is why we wanted to interview you
and feature you on Creative Stoke; firstly - what are the reasons
behind the School's approach, and secondly - is there anyone
else doing what you're doing, strongly adhering to
traditional teaching methods, focussing on the making
of figurative work, and working with small cohorts
of mature students to continue the artisan tradition?
FRINK: Every person or indeed every sculptor has their own approach to things. My
approach - and therefore the Frink School's approach - is unique. The School
teaches traditional craft skills, in the belief that a real tradition is not
the relic of a past that is irretrievably gone; it is a living force that
animates and informs the present.
Student at work in the Welding Room, making a wire
frame from her small model (seen on the bench). (Larger version, 86kb).
CS: Who are your inspirations?
FRINK: There are very few living sculptors who inspire us.
We look to the sculptors of the 20th Century for guidance.
Horse's head (77kb)
| Yard figures (86kb)
| Crouching figure (65kb)
CS: Is Stoke a good place for creating sculpture? Are you
able to tap into local families who have traditions of being
high-skilled workers in the ceramics industry as modellers,
FRINK: Stoke-on-Trent is the perfect location for a sculptor. There is an inate
understanding of sculpture here. Yet the people have been oppressed for three
hundred years and many do not realise their own abilities. Most of our
students come from other parts of the country or abroad.
Student in the yard, working with wood. (Larger version, 84kb).
CS: Someone said recently "abstract art is now as safe, and probably
as tired, as any watercolor scene of boats". What's your reaction
to that, in terms of the more abstracted
representations of the human figure?
FRINK: All sculpture is abstract! :-)
Student at work in the Clay Room. (Larger version, 88kb).
CS: What part does 'working from life' play in the creative process?
FRINK: Working from life is just a way of training the eye &
hand to relate shapes. The human body possesses the most
subtle shapes of anything on Earth.
Student in the Main Studio, applying surface colouring (Larger version, 62kb).
CS: On completion, where do students go to? Geographically,
but also in terms of their sense-of-community with other sculptors?
FRINK: Some remain in Stoke-on-Trent or nearby areas, while others
return to where they came from. The Frink is like an
ever-growing family - the students do remain in contact
and are supportive of each other.
Letter-carving in stone, in the yard (Larger version, 62kb).
CS: Is this - after graduation - a skill which a student
can afford to persue if they don't make a dedicated career of it?
FRINK: People come to the Frink because they want
to make sculpture a dedicated career.
Partly-carved saint, with small model next to it. (Larger version, 91kb).
CS: Obviously there's the day-to-day thinking
involved in running the School. But is there a
bigger time-scale that is assumed or at the back of your mind?
What do you think posterity will say - or the girl starting
to sculpt in two hundred years time will think, when she looks back
over her shoulder at what the Frink School did?
FRINK: Well, nothing remains forever. The Frink may be
remembered for doing what it could to keep the
tradition of sculpture alive - as a language in its own right - at a
time when it was unfashionable.
CS: Let's hope so! Rosemary Barnett, thank you.
The frontage of the Frink School, in Tunstall, Stoke-on-Trent. (Mar 05 update: Moved to Leek, near Stoke)
The Frink holds regular Open Days - visit their web-site or call
for more information. The annual exhibition is held in London, usually in May.
The School was located in Tunstall, and from 1st March 2005 will relocate
to Leek, near Stoke-on-Trent.
Rosemary Barnett FRBS was principal of the Sir Henry Doulton
School in Fenton, Stoke-on-Trent. Rosemary is a
sculptor, Curator for the Jerwood Sculpture Park in
Warwickshire, and a judge for the prestigious
Jerwood Sculpture Prize. Dame Elisabeth Frink RA
(1930 - 1993) was very involved with this school, and it is named
after her. Lin Jammet, her son, is patron of the School. After her
death Rosemary Barnett FRBS founded the Frink School of
Sculpture in Longton with the help of Harry Everington. From
1996 - 2000 The Frink was based in Longton, then in
in Tunstall from 2000 - 2005. From 2005 it will be based in Leek,