Fiesta time

Unpacking my car of its full load of teaching materials and carting them inside to the workshop is never my favourite job when I’m down to teach in West Dean College. However last week I was unpacking an even fuller car than usual as it was my Summer School week and, bizarrely, the experience was enhanced by a backing track of loud dance music echoing across the field.

One does not normally associate West Dean with dance music, but it was the annual Chilli Fiesta and there were literally thousands of people having fun in the fields around the house. This year was the 20th anniversary of the popular event which had its humble beginnings when the West Dean Gardens started a fair to sell its chilli-based produce but which has grown into a Glastonbury-style festival over the past two decades. Latin-infused music, chilli-inspired cookery and child-friendly entertainment has brought 300,00 visitors over the years with many camping (and glamping) onsite.

I ventured out on the Saturday night after doing my tutor duty in giving a slideshow to the Summer School students. It was a warm evening and the funfair looked amazing lit up against the sky. Eating around the bonfire and dancing in the teepees made for a great atmosphere but the long teaching day had taken its toll and I retired to bed after watching the fireworks display against the silhouette of West Dean House.

The teaching week was easier than I anticipated. I’m used to Summer School being highly stressful trying to ensure all my students get their panels finished, but normally I would be teaching both leaded glass and kiln-formed glass and how to combine both disciplines in one panel which is rather ambitious. This year the whole week focused on kiln formed glass which, though not without its own challenges, was not quite the fraught race against time that I am used to. I particularly liked our display of glass at the end of he course, seeing what had been made during the preceding week. One student (above left) had worked only in her favourite colours which made for a good collection of interesting samples and finished pieces.

Before the monumental job of packing up all my materials again and loading in to the car, I nipped out to see what student on some of the other courses had been up to. I was particularly impressed by some of the work made in Sarah Macrae‘s jewellery course. There was a collection of bracelets, rings and pendants which caught my eye as they were all based on the idea of the locket, so every piece ingeniously opened up to reveal a small space in which to store treasures. Secret places and hidden treasures always interest me and this steampunk-inspired collection stayed in my mind on the journey home.

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