Dave Clay

Dave Clay

Multi-talented artist Dave Clay was an inspirational Art teacher. To honour his achievements selected content from his website artf1rst.co.uk is now available on andieclay.com.

Born and brought up in south Pembrokeshire – ‘little England beyond Wales’ – Dave initially undertook a five year apprenticeship with British Aerospace based at Filton near Bristol.

Deciding this career path did not fully satisfy his creative abilities he went to Cardiff School of Art, studying under the tutelage of Tom Hudson. From there Dave moved north and gained a Dip.A.D. in Industrial Design at Leeds College of Art. London then beckoned and he gained an Art Teachers Diploma (ATD) at Hornsey during the time of the riots.

Finally, after ten years as a student, Dave began his career as an Art teacher working in secondary school education in London. Eventually and almost inevitably, he returned to his roots with a teaching post at Cardigan Secondary School/ Ysgol Uwchradd Aberteifi.

Retirement gave Dave the opportunity to fully dedicate himself to his Art practice. He immersed himself in the world of sculpture through conceptual and installation art, gaining a B.A.Hons. from Carmarthen School of Art (CSOA).

The following has been taken from Dave’s website

“Creativity is intelligence having fun.” Albert Einstein


I am a retired art teacher in my seventies, completing my second Art degree, this time in sculpture. While acknowledging the disadvantages of a very limited art-making track record, my history does give me the advantage of not really giving a shit about ‘success’. I have nothing to prove, no living to make, and no ego to massage. So why do it? Why not just join a society and hobby my way to the grave?

A passionate mathematics teacher I once knew described a theorem as being “elegant”, not efficient, not well constructed, but elegant. I mirror his passion for the elegant, and like him my path also lies in the realm of ideas. My wish is to exhibit and share with others the joy I find in elegant ideas: an Art of Ideas.

Although I have more past than future, I do not believe in dwelling in it. I am now in a position to be able to acknowledge my debt to the teaching profession for the valuable and pertinent gifts of intuition, self-discipline, humour and fortitude. These I have gained and honed during my extensive previous career.

Furthermore I would be prepared to argue that the skills and processes of teaching or creating, while not being entirely interchangeable, are very closely related, and therefore my past is not irrelevant to present endeavours.

I hate pretension, and so I have written this description in the first person because this is about me, not about some self-obsessed, diaphanous spectre that so often haunts the art world in the form of the third person.


Early conceptual artists saw Art as ideas, I see ideas as Art: an active entity. Active art has an agenda and my work has an ideas-based socio-political agenda. Being born at the tail end of the “angry young man” era I have happily grown and declined into an ‘angry old man’. Not the traditional irascible “things were better in my day” rocking chair embittered old fascist. My work is driven by someone who has regressed to a point where he has a child-like and totally impractical sense of fairness. When this is offended, he spins in his phone box, and transforms into Angry Old Fart Man.

As such I am not short of subject matter. Foremost being the almost limitless human capacity for passing judgements on others. Rational, well-reasoned and eminently fair judgements may be rare but acceptable, but even these often tend to be surplus to requirements. Alternatively there is widespread, self-absorbed, ego massaging judgements. These have the capacity to wound with little or no chance of redress. Such judgements are irrational, prejudicial and discriminatory, and have no place in any enlightened society.

My recent and current work addresses the field of mental health in which such prejudices lie like minefields. In the field of education, where individual students are all but invisible, assessment is king. Here we see an unlimited appetite for irrelevant, over-prescriptive, target driven and all too simple tick-box judgements.

My work is a product of many ideas, some objective, and others born of random or intuitive association. These ideas, both objective and subjective, are woven together to form a complex narrative. Here I look to manipulate, both visually and conceptually, the related harmonies, contrasts and anomalies needed to achieve an elegant artistic agenda.

Spinning in the phone box…

I have recently been creating a presentation encompassing business research for my fellow students. This presentation is about the research needed to firmly step out of the cloistered (corridor) world of further education with purpose. No sooner had I begun than there was a spinning in the phone box. A fully formed, if a little over the top, Rant was born.


  • Self help is a misnomer because they don’t!
  • They use exclamation marks when expounding the blindingly obvious!
  • They equate bullet points with relevance.
  • Including cool sounding acronyms or mnemonics is mandatory.
  • Including high minded quotes to inspire the punters is mandatory.
  • Business systems proliferate, but all must have a surname in their titles to suggest guru status.
  • Examples included to illustrate success must be taken from personal experience.
  • Examples included to illustrate failure must be taken from the experience of a rival.
  • Books on business are a business, and the only successful entrepreneurs are publishers, authors, motivators or lecturers.
  • Really successful entrepreneurs have not got time to write books. The exceptions are those who have appeared on "Dragons Den", and have grown tired of humiliating their own staff.
  • Authors while advocating a do-it-yourself self reliance, write books which are highly prescriptive, and perpetuate a dependency on their books.

Here endeth the rant


Born: 9/1/1942
1959 -1964 Student Apprenticeship, British Aircraft Corporation
1964 -1965 Cardiff College of Art, Foundation Course
1965 -1968 Leeds College of Art, Dip A.D.
1968 -1969 Hornsey College of Art A.T.C.
2009 to date Part time B.A. Honours in Sculpture, Coleg Sir Gar

B.Tech Mechanical Engineering
Foundation Diploma
Dip A.D. Industrial Design, Honours
B.A. Sculpture, Honours

1969 -1972 Classroom Teacher in Art and Design, Preston Manor High School
1972 -1976 Head of Art, Faculty of Art and Design Technology, Kilburn High School
1976 -1984 Head of Creative Arts Faculty, Bishop Douglass School, Finchley
1984 -2007 Head of Art, Cardigan Secondary School

Retired 2007

Group Exhibitions:
1994 Ceredigion Art Teachers, Theatr Mwldan
2010 Fishguard Arts Society, Selected Exhibition at Tregwynt Mansion
2012 Winner, Fishguard Artsfest Open Exhibition

Dave Clay’s Work

Mind Games 1

Mind Games image 1Mind Games image 2Mind Games image 3Mind Games image 4

This table top sized sculpture is a forerunner of a much larger installation work.
Mind Games refers to the prejudice that mental disorder equals fear and violence. The complex narrative highlights the equally sinister qualities in a cerebral game and an imaginative children’s story, while projecting the expected prejudice.

“You see things; and you say, ‘Why?’ But I dream things that never were; and I say, ‘Why not?’” George Bernard Shaw

Mind Games 2

Mind Games image 5Mind Games image 6Mind Games image 7

These images are of an installation size mad hatter. He is street chess size approximately 1.3m high. This is going to be the final experiment in making the Mind Games figures. The figures will be made, as was this one, from glass fibre and Jesmonite. The figure was taken directly from a clay model with no intermediate plaster cast, and finished with bright red gloss spray paint.

AKATOMBO (Fossil side 1)

Set in Stone (Fossil side 1)

Green soapstone, zebrano and beech wood.

My work tends to be simple, narrative and symbolic in concept, and has at its’ roots some reference to personal experiences.

AKATOMBO means red dragonfly, a Japanese song.

This sculpture is multi-faceted, a piece with three inter-woven narratives, Christianity, Evolution and Creationism. Each side references its’ own narrative, and the whole piece hopefully resolves yet another over-arching narrative.

“That art is best which suggests most.” Austin O’Malley

AKATOMBO (Specimen side 2)

Set in Stone (Specimen side 2)

Green soapstone, zebrano and beech wood.
Classification is Petrifaction.

“Art is Individualism, and Individualism is a disturbing and disintegrating force. Therein lies its immense value. For what it seeks to disturb is monotony of type, slavery of custom, tyranny of habit.” Oscar Wilde



Printed acrylic sheet, fluorescent acrylic rod and machined aluminium. 30cm high.

This piece is a reference toward the situation of facing cancer. A signpost on a personal journey, a type of ‘beauty and the beast’ allegory.

“Sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.” Lewis Carroll

Dawkins & St Patrick

Dawkins and St Patrick image 1Dawkins and St Patrick image 2

Perspex sheet, Perspex rod and glazing lead. 1.5 metres high.

This sculpture is a nostalgic piece about adolescence and religion. A personal narrative referencing a nurture versus nature conflict, which also encompasses a spiritual and objective paradox.

“The greater the artist, the greater the doubt. Perfect confidence is granted to the less talented as a consolation prize.” Robert Hughes