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Edinburgh Design School to launch ‘Clay School’ for children

Edinburgh Design School is an SQA approved ceramics teaching centre. It was founded in 2012 with a mission to reintroduce pottery education back into the mainstream after a period of steady decline in Scotland.

Through its work with Craft Scotland, the school aims to facilitate teacher training (CPD) in Scottish schools. All EDS teachers are well-qualified, experienced ceramicists and educators with their own industry profiles.

An interview with Alex Gunn, founding director of EDS.

What is your background?

I am a graduate of Duncan of Jordanstone College (Dundee), where I studied for an MFA in Public and Fine Art. My background is in education and my role at EDS as founding director is running and growing the school.

What motivated you to open the school?

Ceramics had been in decline in Scotland for years. Art courses no longer offered it. We conducted a survey three years ago, which indicated that although some schools had kilns, most teachers lacked the expertise to deliver discreet pottery/ceramics classes. Ceramics is only offered in a few well-resourced schools. I once asked an accomplished young student where he had been taught.

“Eton!” he replied.

There is a misconception among Art teachers that ceramics is time-consuming and messy. But this is not the case when teachers plan carefully, as they do here.

How has Edinburgh Design School evolved?

Courses began in 2012. We had 3 people in a class and we sublet the pottery. In 2019 we moved from St Margaret’s House to our current location, a Victorian primary school by Holyrood Park. The ceramicists in the workshop (ECW) needed more space to practise. We now have 35 permanent members. The potters range from hobbyists to emerging professionals, who exhibit and sell their work. We also run short-term residencies on a regular basis. Recently we worked with the Princes Trust Foundation at Dumfries House to host the ceramicist Natasha Russell.

How does a young child stand to benefit from pottery lessons?

Art provides an outlet for a child’s creativity. It enables self-expression, which is fundamental for mental wellbeing.

Other transferable skills are also honed and developed: the ability to concentrate, to live in the moment (mindfulness), spatial awareness, observational and critical skills. Ceramics involves a good deal of Physics and Geometry. Students develop sketchbook prototypes before making anything.

What pottery skills are learned?

Teaching focusses on simple but effective handbuilding and wheel throwing techniques, which lead to beautiful, functional products.

Do children currently attend the school?

Yes. As soon as they are old enough to take instruction and concentrate (around aged 8/9). We have children joining the foundation classes, occasionally with a sibling. Many stay and progress through the levels. I have also run classes for home-schooled children, which were popular.

Is the school affected by current restrictions?

As a Scottish Qualifications Authority approved teaching centre, we are exempt from many of the rules. We have enough space to enable social distancing.

What are your plans for the future?

I intend to open a weekend clay school for young potters in 2021. We are currently fully booked in the evenings, but there is scope for classes during the daytime.

We would also like to encourage schools to use our resources and expertise. The studios are spacious enough to accommodate groups of schoolchildren during the day. And we can offer certified foundation courses. We hope that schools will take up this fantastic opportunity to expand their provision.

Edinburgh Design School Email:


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