When my parents died Henry made and erected a headstone. He was incredibly patient and empathetic at this difficult time. It’s perfect – I couldn’t imagine anything better.
There was a really happy atmosphere in the studio! – friendly and relaxed, but also very productive and focussed. The students were all engrossed in their craft, in an immensely supportive teaching environment.
Reflecting on this teaching observation, it strikes me that there are two crucial elements which make Henry’s studio teaching such a success: firstly his long experience and complete mastery of his craft, and secondly the personal qualities which make him such a superb teacher. There was never any feeling of ‘I’m the expert, listen to me’ – quite the reverse: he was dealing with students as equals, and as friends with whom he wanted to share something special.
VISIT TO HENRY GRAY’S STONE CARVING STUDIO
On Monday 10th November 2014 I spent a fascinating morning at Henry Gray’s Stone Carving Studio, as part of my course on teaching calligraphy. A requirement of this course is the observation of an experienced teacher, and I chose to visit a teacher of a craft different to my own, but related to it.
The studio is ideally set up for teaching, with individual ‘work stations’ in place for up to eight students, and a comprehensive range of tools is available. Henry’s starting point for teaching is his feeling that almost every human being needs to have more confidence. His teaching style is therefore one of giving gentle (though very expert) guidance and encouragement, while also leaving students to work things out for themselves when appropriate.
It was fascinating to watch Henry’s interaction with the students. He was able to take in quickly what each was aiming at, and was very sensitive in the ways in which he gave guidance. Sometimes he would demonstrate how to use a tool more effectively, both in terms of the angle of the chisel to the stone, but also from the point of view of muscles used and the stance needed for greatest economy of effort. I noticed him gently stimulating students to think about what they wanted to achieve, and what techniques and tools they might use to achieve it, often referring to an impressive piece of his own work in progress, to discuss a particular technique he had used and how well it had worked. I felt that he was constantly watching for ways in which he could help – but help was given in the gentlest, most encouraging way, and always unobtrusively and self-effacingly, treating the students completely as equals. I couldn’t imagine a more encouraging or approachable teacher.
Not surprisingly, there was a really happy atmosphere in the studio! – friendly and relaxed, but also very productive and focussed. The students were all engrossed in their craft, in an immensely supportive teaching environment.
Reflecting on this teaching observation, it strikes me that there are two crucial elements which make Henry’s studio teaching such a success: firstly his long experience and complete mastery of his craft, and secondly the personal qualities which make him such a superb teacher. There was never any feeling of ‘I’m the expert, listen to me’ – quite the reverse: he was dealing with students as equals, and as friends with whom he wanted to share something special. I shall always remember his example in my own teaching, and hope that I can live up to it.
Student Teacher Testimonial
We asked Henry to make a headstone for my father who died in 2012. We had some fairly strong opinions of what we wanted but we didn’t have the knowledge to translate this into an exact design that could be followed. Henry came out to the churchyard to discuss it with us, and seemed to comprehend exactly what we were aiming for. He was extremely understanding and sensitive to everyone’s slightly raw emotional state, and full of good ideas and suggestions.
“We quickly approved his quote and final design which came through very promptly. Soon after, we visited the workshop to look at the stone and see some examples of lettering – what a lovely atmosphere in that place! Henry and Tamsin came and installed the stone themselves when it was done, and it was every bit as good as we’d hoped, if not better. The whole family were really pleased with it. Without Henry’s knack for understanding our rather muddled ideas and helping to draw them out and clarify them, I don’t think we’d have ended up with such a good result.
Expect a warm welcome from Henry, other students, a wood-burning stove and a kettle on.
I’ve been attending courses with Henry for 3 years and am still happily learning under his skilful guidance.
He aims to create an atmosphere in which we can make what we want to – and that is exactly what he does.
The combination of the deep pleasure and satisfaction Henry derives from working with stone and with people make him an ideal teacher.
The groups are always welcoming and a delight to join and the outcome wonderfully tangible.
I haven’t looked back since and so enjoy the total absorption that 2½ hours on a Monday evening brings.
I did my first course with Henry in April 2015 a friend asked me to join her as she wanted to carve a head stone for her mother’s grave. Henry is a very kind and generous teacher, he encourages your own ideas and supports you along the way with the right techniques and correct use of the tools. The workshop is in a beautiful location and even the drive there is relaxing. Anyone can do this it is fun, rewarding and of course at times frustrating but magical when your piece emerges from a piece of stone that is millions of years old.
I attended an introductory weekend carving course and was instantly hooked so have now started weekly sessions – wonderful! The venue, facilities, instruction and company are all great.
Henry – thank you for the classes – the highlight of my week!
I have really benefited from learning stone carving with someone who is very skillful with an artist’s eye and a wonderful teaching manner.
I have learned to appreciate skills, stone, form and beauty and I suppose that all adds up to learning to appreciate life! I really have enjoyed the classes.
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