Learning from Sculpture

How do you take a rough idea and transform it into something that will actually work? That's what has been occupying my mind over the last 24 hours or so. Several people have commented on the strengths and weaknesses of Cyclical School and I've been wrestling with and trying to eliminate its flaws for weeks. I found it helpful to think about what I was doing by drawing parallels between refining this new approach to learning and the methods of a sculptor. And then I found this video.

So what did I learn?

Well, first of all, the central idea has to be a sound one. In my case, it was 'a way to carry on learning when you couldn't go to school'. Just as a sculptor wouldn't choose to work with a stone he knew had obvious cracks and blemishes, so an ideas person needs to look at his or her idea for clear imperfections. And, believe me, I've spent plenty of time wandering around the 'quarry' in my head picking up some badly flawed rocks and insisting on working with them until they crumble in my hands. A new kitchen worktop made of glacial till, sir (That's what the cliffs are made of on the Holderness Coast, which is rapidly falling into the sea)? A headstone for your late husband fashioned from the finest talc? No, I'll stick with granite, thanks.

Then the idea has to 'take shape'. The video shows the sculptor drawing lines on the marble block which serve as the lines along which he will eventually cut; first with enormous power tools, and finally with the finest diamond-tipped chisel when working on the tiny details. As he works away at the marble block, the sculpture starts to appear. In outline, at first, with bits still attached that still need chipping off, but a sculpture, nonetheless. As Rolf Harris would have said before he was disgraced, "Can you see what it is yet?" Yes, Rolf, we can.

Then comes the bit that takes time - chipping away at the finer details, polishing the finished stone. Only then will anyone want to place the sculpture as the centerpiece in their garden or at the entrance to a grand stately home. The sculptor needs time to reflect; possibly to take on board others' comments and criticisms. Time to stand back, maybe, and look at his work from a distance again.

What seems to have happened recently is that Boris has nipped out to the quarry without saying as much as a word to Gavin and has come away, not with a decent piece of granite or even slate, but with a gigantic lump of luminous green Play-Doh that was meant for Carrie and his son. And now everyone is crowding around the lump of Play-Doh. The unions are running off with bits of it; the scientists are lobbing bits of it at each other. Tory-bashers are daubing it with paint. Somebody else wants to board it up to protect it. There is also a bunch of hooligans who want to throw it into the sea, only to fish it out again and put it in a museum.

Meanwhile, I'll carry on chipping away at my statue. You're welcome to take a look and offer me advice. I won't be offended. Maybe, one day Boris, or one of his successors will consider putting it in their garden?

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