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Out of This Earth: Working with Earth Pigments, Soya Milk & Textiles

With Claire Benn

9 July 2022 - 11 July 2022

3 day course 10am - 4pm

A three-day course designed to introduce you to an ecological method of binding earth (or mineral) pigments to textiles using soya milk.

This practical three-day course with textile artist Claire Benn is designed to introduce you to an ecological method of binding earth (or mineral) pigments to textiles using soya milk. Out of This Earth will explore a wide range of approaches and enable you to get to grips with the process and return home with a wide variety of samples – of a size that could be used for stitch or embroidery, cushions, quilt-making or small bags.

During the course you will be:

  • Collecting and processing your own earth pigments and using purchased pigments to explore their difference.
  • Making your own pigments sticks/crayons and learning how these can be used in your ongoing practice.
  • Making your own soya milk and thickening it, to make soya paste and your own paints.

You will leave the three days with an understanding of and experience in:

  • Pre-sizing cloth.
  • Various surface design techniques and application methods using liquid and thickened soya paints.
  • Post sizing and washing the cloth (when necessary or desired) as well as curing the cloth.
  • Ideas on how to use the cloth for art or functional items.

Download the full Course Itinerary here

Claire Benn

Claire Benn is an artist and educator in art textiles, author and curator. Exploring cloth, “the pliable plane”, she is currently developing the use of earth pigments for dying.

After a long career in training and development consultancy, in 1998 Claire re-focused and began her journey into art and cloth. All of her studies were self-funded and with her previous career giving her the skills needed to establish a teaching practice, she did so in 2000.

Setting up a teaching studio in partnership with Leslie Morgan, Committed to Cloth focused on art textiles and showed her that "to teach is to learn twice."

During this time she published seven ‘how to’ books, and in 2014, she wanted to have more time to focus on her own work and so stood down from the partnership. Since then she has exhibited widely across the UK, USA and Europe and she lives and works in a converted barn in Surrey, UK.

Using earth pigment connects me back to the land. Binding it in acrylic medium allows me to make washes that soak through the cloth or build up crusty layers to communicate the texture of earth, rock and snow. Rows, lines or scatterings of stitched thread offer a visual trace of time and a literal surface that fingertips can feel. These are my quiet materials, used to make art for experiencing solitude, stillness and silence.


All our course days run from 10am till 4pm

Taking place before supper on the evening of arrival, Claire will introduce herself and explore the elements of the workshop taking place over the coming days. You will discover a range of samples that have been bought by Claire and will have a discussion around how they have been made. You will also start the process of preparing the first batch of soya beans for the soya milk you will be making and using over the coming days. We will close this first session by processing your own collected pigment and finish with a group supper.

Claire will introduce the teaching methods that she will be using over the coming days and review the provided cloth packs, and the importance of scouring the cloth to take the paint. You will be introduced to an overview of the whole process and begin making pigments sticks/crayons from collected clay-based soil. You will go through the process of making soya milk from the soaked beans and learn about re-sizing and preparing a colour sample strip of cloth. You will also be making liquid soya paints and working with paints including the use of calligraphy tools, wet monoprinting into thread and cloth, ‘thieves resists', cloth-to cloth transfer, fingers (and maybe toes!), brushes. We close the first day with a group review and discussion and a group supper.

We start the second day with a review of dried results from Day 1, with discussion. Then we will be exploring the use of surface pigment residue from the first day of activity and working on a textured surface (wall or floor – if possible). You will also be making thickened soya paste and thickened soya paint. Looking at Surface Design applications with Thickened Soya Paint; you will explore various techniques, including Silkscreens and thermofax screens/stencils, Rollers, Mono printing, Brushes (foam and bristle), Needle-nose bottles, Sponges, Stencils. We close the day with another group review and discussion and group supper.

We start the final day as before, with a review of dried results from the previous day, with discussion. Claire will then discuss ways forwards, including how we can layer different approaches/techniques to build depth and visual interest, the guidelines on the order of processes, optimal working timeframes for this type of work, how stitch, collage/piecing and functional items can be made. Each student will be able to determine how to spend the rest of the day, using the approaches covered in an intentional manner, with 1-2-1 guidance and advice given by Claire. Note: choices may be weather dependent as liquid applications need more drying time – no problem if we have sun, more of a problem if we have rain. However, damp work can be taken home rolled in the plastic sheeting. This process allows us to deal with ‘crocking’ through post-sizing, how to cure the finished pieces, how to wash the finished pieces (or not!), then have an initial clear-up ready for a final review & discussion with additional Q&A.

We have a fantastic accommodation offer onsite, and would recommend staying here for the fully immersive Clayhill experience. All our accommodation is reserved for the students for the duration of the course and you will have a bedroom of your own. Our rooms have been converted from a series of old cattle sheds and from an old milking parlour and retain characterful features such as exposed wooden roof timbers and stone walls. Each bedroom has its own tea and coffee making facilities and outdoor seating area.

We also have an onsite laundry should you need to use these facilities during your stay with us. WIFI is available throughout the complex, heating and hot water is supplied by biomass technology, electricity by solar technology and all of the water around the site is fed by a natural spring.

Accommodation is offered at £80/night. If you would like to make your stay here more comfortable, you can also buy single additional nights before or after the course. (Please note any additional nights will not be catered, we are happy to recommend some local places to eat).

All courses at Clayhill Arts are fully catered, and our locally-sourced food is included in the price of your course ticket. If you do choose to stay with us a bespoke evening meal as well as breakfast and lunch will also be provided. To read more about our food offering, follow this link. About our catering

Anyone with an interest in textiles and exploring new ways of working with pigments in an ecological sense. The course is suitable for all ages, wheelchair users would need some extra help but can work sitting at a table. It is also advise that people will be standing a fair amount of the time

Students are advised to wear clothes suitable for gardening or decorating (e.g. nothing precious or fancy!). A cloth apron is also useful as are comfy shoes as we will be working on a concrete floor. All other materials will be provided and you will be using the surrounding landscape for gathering material, so we have that in abundance!

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.

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Course ticket - Out of This Earth: working with earth pigments, soya milk and textiles
£ 360.00
1 available
Course Accommodation - Out of this earth
£80/night x 3 (includes the evening before on the 8th, see itinerary below for details)
£ 240.00
1 available
Extra night - After
£ 80.00
8 available
Extra night - Before
£ 80.00
8 available

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.

Find out more about our Partial.ly Payment Plan here

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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


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