Ceramic Perched Birds with James Ort, 22nd June 2022

Ceramic Perched Birds with James Ort, 22nd June 2022

James loves teaching others the joys of ceramics but essentially, he has taught the same course for a few years now.

It is time to mix things up a bit! So come join him for two separate days and learn how to make a wall-mounted clay bird sat on a wooden perch!

Sculpting birds present several challenges and these challenges are magnified furthermore when working in clay. Dainty, delicate legs that hold up comparatively weighty bodies and thin elegant wings that need to cut through the air like a knife – its a sculptor’s worst nightmare!

James has often felt dissatisfied with how he and the wider sculpting community have approached creating the feathered subjects – ‘the limitations of sculpting materials often compromises the elegance of the bird’s form, resulting in big chunky legs and thick Boeing 747 wings! After a few years of developing his own skills and techniques, James has now found an approach to sculpting birds that he is happy with and he would like to share it with the wider world.

This course is shorter than the usual format. Essentially students will come for one day to make the clay elements of their feathered muse and then return a few weeks later on a specific day to glaze the form and make the mixed media elements. James will assemble the pieces once they have gone through the final firing, and you can come and collect on a date that suits you.

We are confident that those who attend the course will agree that a bird in the hand is worth two days of hard graft in the studio!


DAY 1:

Make your bird in clay!

We’ll get to know your birds better with a quick sketching exercise – no drawing skills require! Then you will make a simple newspaper armature and add clay by breaking down your subject into key muscle groups and shapes.
We’ll start making the feet too if there is time.


Bringing birdie to life with colour and creating the mixed-media elements!

Once your masterpieces have been bisque fired in the kiln, come back and James will teach you how to best apply the underglazes. This shouldn’t take more than 3 or so hours leaving us with enough time to finish the other mixed media elements of the piece.

(once your bird has been fired, James will assemble the elements so your masterpiece is ready for collection!)

This fun course includes:

  • Informal, relaxed & attentive guidance for every student, provided by James Ort
  • Step-by-step demonstrations covering…
  • How to build an armature for your wall-mounted perching bird
  • How to apply the clay to best capture the avian anatomy and what parts of the wings to leave for other materials
  • How to create dainty wire legs and metal wings
  • An outline of the firing process in our kiln room
  • How to glaze your work using underglazes and colour your wings on a separate day course

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.

What is included in the price?

  • Two full days teaching (10am-4.30pm)
    • one making the bird in clay
    • another glazing your creation and an other making the mixed-media elements
  • Clay, firings, glazes, materials and perches
  • Tea, coffee, biscuits/cakes
  • Use of a beautiful, purpose built art studio with all the equipment & materials you will need
  • Beautiful countryside setting

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 and other materials but don’t know where to start
  • You love birds and have a favourite one you’d like to see at home every day!

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 of your chosen bird – various angles, the more photos the better.

Given that you just have two days to create your masterpieces and that our avian friends present all kinds of creative challenges, we are afraid that we will have to impose some limitations on what you make, namely that:

    • no birds exceed the size of a magpie or woodpigeon,
    • specimens must have their wings folded down alongside its body,
    • they must be sat on a perch, actually they can be wall mounted too – similar to the parakeet or woodpecker in the course gallery.

You will be sent an automated email on booking which prompts you towards documents that help you prepare for your time here and goes into more detail. If you do not get this email please check your junk box and, if it is not there, email James who will resend the information.

You will also need to email James a picture of your chosen bird no later than one week before the course starts.

Second Session

Once you have made the clay bird, it will need to be dried & bisque fired. It is then ready to be glazed.  You will need to return on another set day to glaze your work and finish the other elements of your piece.

In order to attend this course you will need to commit to attending BOTH of the separate dates. In this case the second date for this course will be the 7th September (that said, we may be able to swap you with someone who was scheduled to be coming on the following day – the 8th September).

If you cannot make both the 22nd June and the 7th (possibly the 8th September) then please do not book a place unless you are willing to pay an additional £100 for a day of private tuition with James.

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.

Beyond The Course

Having completed a Phoenix Studio course many of our students choose to explore the medium further. They may come on another course, start coming to our Phoenix Art Club Sessions, or carry on independently at home. We are more than happy to help and advise you in taking those first creative steps, help connect you to the wider creative community. You can also bring any pieces you make at home to the studio to be fired in our kilns.

£335 per person, including...

your tuition, your return glazing session, all your clay, materials, glazes, firings, tea, coffee, biscuits & cake


We normally redirect you to James’s website to book this course, but it is playing up right now!

To secure your place, please email us using james@phoenixstudio.co.uk. Places are reserved on a first-come, first-served basis.


James Ort

James is the main tutor of this course. He is a wildlife artist. He has always loved animals and his late Grandfather, the Ladybird Children’s book illustrator Brian Price Thomas was a big catalyst for both his love of wildlife and art. His main passion is sculpture, where he is equally drawn to ceramic and wire.

James also has been the manager of the Phoenix Studio for over a decade now, having moved up to Oxfordshire from Brighton where he worked in conservation.

Lois Constable

Lois is James’ cousin and for some time now has been doing a fantastic job in helping James to manage the studio. When she’s not busy keeping the Phoenix Studio inbox from overflowing, she also likes to be creative – it’s in the genes! She really took to making clay animals, showing a natural aptitude and understanding of the technique. On this course she will be helping to keep James on the straight and narrow, ensuring that the day runs smoothly and advising students when is necessary.

I am super excited to be teaching these avian sculpting methods I have developed with other people! Its going to be great to spread my wings and teach something a little bit different. It should be a really unique course and I hope you can join us.

James Ort – Course Tutor

I fell in love with this course straight away. I have always been creative, but to be given expert guidance by James to create not one but TWO fantastic sculptures, left me wanting more. I feel very privileged to be part of this fantastic experience and studio family. Now being able to work along side James is a dream come true!

Lois Constable – Course Assistant

We get wonderful feedback from the people who attend this course.  Here are just a couple of testimonials:

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. And such lovely surroundings at the studios – a perfect way to spend a weekend!

Ciara Murray

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.

Nikki Windridge

£335 per person, including...

your tuition, your return glazing session, all your clay, materials, glazes, firings, tea, coffee, biscuits & cake


We normally redirect you to James’s website to book this course, but it is playing up right now!

To secure your place, please email us using james@phoenixstudio.co.uk. Places are reserved on a first-come, first-served basis.

Comments are closed.