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Destructive Distillation: exploratory charcoal making and drawing

With Lotte Scott

27 March 2021 - 28 March 2021



Led by artist Lotte Scott, this practical two day workshop will explore material, place and process through experimental charcoal making. Over the course of the weekend, participants will learn how to make their own charcoal using wood and other materials gathered from the landscape of Clayhill.

This Clayhill charcoal will then be used in a series of expansive drawing exercises, working site specifically as well as on paper. 

The workshop will focus on ideas of equivalence and balance with nature, posing the question – what might be gained by working more directly and sensitively with the landscape around you? 

Lotte will also give a talk about the history of charcoal and its many artistic, industrial and medicinal uses. She will consider its scientific properties, material qualities and the role it has played in her own practice over the last 12 years.    

Rather than focusing on purely representation, the exercises delivered during this two day workshop, will give you the chance to experiment with more conceptual and sculptural drawing ideas.

By the end of the two days you will:

  • Have learnt the practical skills of charcoal making, using accessible, affordable equipment and techniques.
  • Have your own charcoal to take home with you
  • Know how to make your own art materials rather than relying on mass manufactured ones.
  • Have had the opportunity to explore the unique qualities of different trees and woods as drawing charcoal. 
  • Be encouraged to use charcoal in alternative and artistic ways, beyond observational or still life techniques.
  • Gained an overview of charcoal making throughout history and why charcoal is such a diverse and widely used material.

Accommodation can be provided with this course making this a fully immersive learning experience and giving you the time and space to develop a new peer network.

If you do choose to stay with us a bespoke evening meal as well as breakfast and lunch will also be provided.

We have also set up a payment plan, so that you can spread the cost of the sessions over the next 4 months. You will find the option for doing this as you enter the checkout page.



Due to the current restrictions we have had to postpone this course during 2021, but will be rearranging this for a later date. 

If you are interested in this course, please get in touch and we will inform you when the new dates are announced.


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Lotte Scott grew up in Castle Cary, Somerset. She studied BA Art Practice at Goldsmiths University and MFA Sculpture at the Slade School of Art, where she graduated in 2017 with First Class honours. She now lives and works in South Somerset. 

Lotte’s practice is rooted in the landscape of her home county, exploring place, deep time and material through sculpture and drawing. Since 2013 her focus has been the peat moors of the Somerset levels, examining the indexical nature of peat as a living archive of land and people. Lotte is the recipient of the 2020 Gilchrist Fisher Award, for artists under 30 working with the theme of Landscape.

Having first made charcoal as a teenager, this process has been an integral part of Lotte’s work for the last twelve years.


We start the first day with a fire. Each participant will have been asked to bring along 2 identical objects or pieces of material to be used in an demonstration charcoal burn. The group will introduce themselves and explain why they chose their particular object for charcoaling. Lotte will then take one object from each person in the group (the group’s duplicate objects will be kept for comparison after the burn). The test objects will be sealed in tins and added to the fire in the yard for pyrolisation. With this demonstration, Lotte will talk the group through the process of charcoal making. As the charcoal fire continues to burn/cool down, Lotte will deliver a talk on the history of charcoal making, the different uses of charcoal, and the role it has played in her own practice. The tins will then be retrieved from the fire and the group will uncover their charcoalled objects. These will be compared with the group’s duplicate objects, to give a clear “before and after” and show how material is transformed through pyrolysis. After lunch we will be gathering material from the Clayhill site. Lotte will lead a short walk around Clayhill, so that the group can gather a range of organic materials. Participants will be encouraged to amass a variety of material, to allow for the comparison of green vs seasoned wood, dense vs fragile matter, dry material vs wet material. Material will also be gathered to create a still life for drawing exercises in the studio on day. As part of the walk, Lotte will showcase drawings she made on site during her residency at Clayhill. At the close of this first day we will light new fires for charcoaling. While the fires are getting established, the group will prepare their materials for charcoaling – cutting pieces down to size and arranging material in tins. The tins will be placed into the fire and the charcoal making process will begin. Pyrolisation will take around an hour. The group will be encouraged to take charge of their own tins and monitor the different stages of the burn, but will be free to come and go as they please. After the evening meal, we will share in some films that utilise charcoal and we will talk further about their history and impact in art

We start the day by uncovering the charcoal made during the previous evening, followed by drawing exercises in the studio, using the still life created from gathered material. There will be group sharing and discussion with the drawings, then we will take the drawing exercises outside. After lunch we will continue with outside drawing exercises as a group with the possibility of a large, group performance drawing. In the afternoon we will spend time reflecting on the workshop, with an opportunity for feedback on the work made and discussions. We will then package up the drawings, charcoal and charcoalled objects for you to take home.


Anyone with an interest in exploring charcoal as a medium and ways to use this for drawing, or for expanding your arts practice by making your own art materials.

All materials will be provided, but please bring warm, hardwearing clothing for working outdoors and with fires. As well as comfortable shoes and waterproof clothing.

Yes! We provide refreshments throughout the day and a home-cooked lunch which is freshly prepared in our Granary kitchen. Lunch is served around our communal dining table, offering you a great chance to get to know everyone on the course and share in the making processes you have been developing throughout the day. Please advise us of any dietary requirements before arrival.

Yes! All of our bedrooms here at Clayhill are en-suite so you will have your own private space to retreat to and relax in after spending your day in the meditative space of the Studio. We provide you with your own towels and bathroom products for use throughout your stay and you can enjoy the extensive grounds well into the evening. If you do choose to stay with us a bespoke evening meal as well as breakfast and lunch will also be provided.

Gift Vouchers

We offer Gift Vouchers for use with our courses and events.


Working with Deborah and Michael was such a pleasure. They understood the project from the beginning, what the needs of the makers and our audiences would be, and acted as thoughtful ambassadors for the project when we were not able to be there. Every aspect of the exhibition and events was facilitated in such a calm and confident manner, which made my job of coordinating a group of artists so much easier! The whole event became a pivotal moment for the project, bringing people together in a way I could never have anticipated, and which has altered my thinking about the future of the project. Thank you for making us feel so welcome.


The weekend I spent at Clayhill Arts was a very welcome change of scenery to my otherwise urban setting. I felt calmed yet invigorated by the surroundings, and the accommodation was beautifully tasteful and very homely. The main space is wonderfully considered and very versatile - an ideal space for creativity and dynamic discussion. I left on the Sunday feeling energised and inspired by the experience of staying at Clayhill.


As a singer it has been one of the best spaces to sing in with generous reverberation and acoustics.  It is a space which complemented the type of instruments I was working with and the songs.


I just wanted to say how much I enjoyed being at your venue. It is a lovely and inspiring artistic space. The food was fantastic, homely yet unusual. I really enjoyed the day.


As an artist retreat, the venue at Clayhill Arts provided a warm and welcoming environment, allowing a safe and constructive space where individuals creative needs can be met. 


We were lucky enough to be able to take over the whole venue for a weekend, using the Granary as our base for experimentation, discussion and shared learning. The informality of the accommodation, and the relaxed surroundings, put everyone at ease and offered a space where cooperation and encouragement evolved naturally.


Everything was wonderful! This is a beautiful place. Thank you, we really enjoyed our stay.


Clayhill feels remote which is great but it also is close to Cannington which has everything, so supplies can be bought without travelling a great distance...I also really enjoyed that it is still a working farm, because it feels productive and there is such a lot of life around us which is very inspiring