Creative Learning, Education

Meet Our Tutors: Dee Barnes, Functional Ceramics Specialist

Two women standing and working on clay pottery pieces on tables. In the background, more women are working.

At Attenborough Arts Centre, we believe that the arts is something for everyone to enjoy and take part in. Our tutors work hard to provide hands-on creative workshops which inspire creativity, explore new horizons and will give you a hunger for creativity. One of the amazing tutors behind our workshops is Dee Barnes, an artist who discovered her own love for ceramics in creative workshops just like our Pottery for All class.

Barnes has been delivering clay workshops at Attenborough Arts Centre since 2015 and has over 35 years’ experience of working within clay. We decided to have a little chat with her to find out a bit more about her practice and her experiences of teaching at the centre.

How would you describe your practice?

I’d describe my practice as a hand building ceramics practice. I like to hand build with clay and a variety of materials to create artworks. I specialise in functional ceramics, creating a variety of objects such as bowls, candlesticks and vases. My favourite technique is coiling.

What is your favourite part of teaching at Attenborough Arts Centre?

My favourite part about teaching the Pottery For All workshop at Attenborough Arts Centre is seeing how much progress people make within the world of ceramics – some members start with limited experience with ceramics and the workshop exposes them to a variety of different techniques. I also love the sense of community within the workshops, it really is a safe space for people to explore ceramics and techniques without pressure. I like to encourage a way of working which is about enjoying the tactile, mindful experience of working with clay.

Where do you get your inspiration from?

Inspiration for me can be found anywhere and everywhere, you know? Inspiration can come from the everyday, on your walks and around you. My way of making is quite spontaneous and intuitive, I don’t really keep a sketchbook or plan what I’m going to make, I prefer to let the making guide me. I tend to find that my artworks evolve from the process of making and grow organically with each project or piece.

How and where did you start in the art world?

I actually started out in the art world as a dancer in the 80s. I loved to go to as many creative workshops as I could and back then there were lots of free workshops where you could try your hand at different things and discover new ways of making. I have also been lucky to have been raised in a creative household, my family is very creative and have been an inspiration in themselves.

Two people working together on their clay creations.
Caption: Our artists getting stuck in and creating their own clay masterpieces.

Would you say that your creative journey has been a full circle in that you began by going to creative workshops, but now, you deliver these yourself?

I think in some ways, yes, and this is part of why teaching these skills is so fulfilling. Learning, and an openness to learn new things is so important in the creative world.

What advice would you give to artists just starting out?

One thing I wish I did earlier was work with other artists. There is so much you can learn from working with other people, you should always make time to work with and talk to other creatives because you learn the most by working with and learning from others. I think its also important to keep making and just having a go really. Even as a tutor it is so important for me to be making and teaching at the same time because both processes inform and inspire each other.

Where can we find your work?

You can find my work on my website at and over on my Instagram @Deebarnesdesigns. I am also exhibiting for the Leeds craft and design gallery as well as at retail fairs, and small independent markets.

Image of a colourful vase inspired by the tree of life against a white background
Caption: A colourful vase designed by Dee Barnes, inspired by the Garden of Eden Tree of life.

If you’re curious about clay making and ceramics, you are in luck. At Attenborough Arts Centre there is a course for (almost) anything creative! You can find our full range of creative courses and workshops here. Our ceramics workshops include our fantastic Experiments in Sculpture workshop delivered by tutor Austin Orwin as well as the Pottery for All workshop by Dee Barnes. These unmissable workshops will introduce you to the tactile, fun and mindful experience of working with clay. You will learn a range of techniques for you to create beautifully unique, handcrafted ceramics for you and your loved ones to enjoy.

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