Head of Art, David Knight, is celebrating 20 years at Giggleswick School this year – still passionate about giving young people the opportunity to find a sense of their own identity through art and creativity.
In the two decades since David joined in 1997, the art department has flourished, moving from the old art rooms on the site where the sports hall is today to the impressive creative space provided by the purpose-built Glover Art Studio, a faculty developed from the extensively renovated former school sanatorium.
“We are very fortunate to have great facilities here with the wonderful backdrop of the beautiful Yorkshire Dales. It’s an inspirational space and the pupils appreciate the views across to Attermire and the limestone fells above Settle to fuel their creative thinking,” said David.
Many students have used the local landscape very successfully within their sixth form A Level art work or the Cambridge Pre-U course which allows students to produce an in depth body of work on a certain aspect of the local landscape. Ben Cornelius, Faye Milbourn and Molly Smith are recent students who have done this very well. Current student Samuel Jowett is working on the theme of memory and old derelict sites of local industry, focusing on how the landscape is used to make a living, particularly mining and lime kilns.
David himself is a painter. His pieces are fairly abstract, often with a landscape element and mainly an emotional response as opposed to a literal observation.
“I like it when there is a strong crossover in many creative areas; when painting, sculpture, ceramics, jewellery, design become interlinked. The Bauhaus is a good example, or perhaps Charles Rennie Mackintosh.
He said: “My own inspiration tends to be more lyrical rather than lateral. I’m more interested in creating a sense of a certain place. Elements I might use could be light, colour, surface texture, space, atmosphere, the weather, movement. The paintings can also be seen in quite different ways: they could be microscopic studies of a small part of the landscape; or they could be seen as satellite images looking down onto the landscape.
“I listen to a lot of music. Music is a purely abstract form of art and yet it feels completely real, nobody really questions why they like music; it is, quite rightly, just accepted as something both beautiful and relevant. I would like my paintings to be looked at with a similar open mind.”
David’s wife, Margaret Uttley, herself a full-time artist, paints in a more figurative style. They are both well known locally, having taken part in exhibitions in the area and are connected with Gavaghan Art and Studio Vault galleries, both in Settle. Their daughter, Emily, a professional jeweller and OG, runs Studio Vault and was asked by Burberry to design a one-off jewellery inspired cape for exhibition at London, New York, Los Angeles, Shanghai.
The couple’s other daughter, Lauren, also an OG, works in children’s clothes design after studying art at Giggleswick and costume design at Edinburgh University.
David and Margaret are about to exhibit together on the Isle of Lewis, at the An Lannair Arts Centre in Stornoway.
David has always appointed a ‘ceramic artist in residence’ on a one-year appointment at Giggleswick, working in the studio on their own projects as well as teaching. He also actively invites a wide range of outside artists into school to work with pupils and share ideas and inspiration with the whole department, a practice which boosts creativity.
Dave Fortune, printmaking technician at the University of the West of England and the deviser of water-based screen printing, is a regular guest, running workshops, as is Margaret. Animators Kettu film studios, whose CV includes working with Aadman Productions on ‘Wallace and Gromit’ and making music videos for Radiohead, also recently worked with pupils particularly interested in film/animation.
David said: “I believe it’s really important to broaden horizons by seeing what other people are doing. I am always on the lookout for talent to invite into school. We are all about trying to encourage our pupils to think independently and come up with their own ideas. Working with artists from all specialisms, along with the residency, gives a variety of inputs which introduces different skills not only to the pupils, but also to us teachers, which is always interesting. We are pleased to have strong links with film and animation.
Art is a great subject for the creative side of the brain, and it is a Giggleswick signature that young artists are allowed the freedom to run with their inspiration.
Said David: “Students can develop their own strengths, generating ideas and pursuing their interests. Some children may not be as strong at more academic subjects, but they shine in art. In some schools art is becoming almost an elitist option, but here we give everyone the opportunity to try.
“All great cultures are underpinned by a defining sense of visual and creative identity – Ancient Egypt, Aboriginal, Japanese and Chinese culture, even cave painting. It is at its strongest when art, science and engineering come together - think pyramids, cathedrals and skyscrapers.”
There are always at least four or five Giggleswick students who continue onto art and design courses, at establishments including Central St Martins, London, Leeds College of Art, UCL, London and Glasgow School of Art. The career opportunities are enormous: textiles, photography, jewellery, fashion, architecture, illustration, graphics, interior design, film, animation, the list goes on.
OGs in artistic careers include James Ferran and Rufus Edmondson in architecture, Carolina Mondragon in Bayarri architecture, Tom Duxbury is a book illustrator, Chris Heap works on the sets for Coronation Street and Tom Coxon is involved in film set design. Nick Leigh is a landscape painter and Becky Watson is at the Hepworth Gallery in Wakefield; Grace Marshall is working in fashion, Becky Holden is pursuing a career in textiles and Tim Mellin is a photographer.
Said David: “At A level we can give pupils strong, important fundamentals which they need to embrace and understand before they progress, such as drawing, experience with materials and a range of techniques, through experimentation, how an idea can develop and evolve. These are important areas and once they have these anything is possible!”