About Claire Simpson

Artist, facilitator, forest school practitioner, photographer


“… through the sense of touch, children learn about their world… pounding and pressing, caressing and smoothing, pinching and incising, dabbing and stroking…gliding and twirling… feathery and furry, knobbly and stony… learning to see… being attentive to things, seeing familiar things anew, seeing the extraordinary in the ordinary, learning to see - with all the senses… a language of hands…”        Ursula Kolbe

I work predominantly through collaboration with schools, community groups, organisations, artists and venues; creating work though projects, residencies, commissions and training.  I’m based in Derbyshire and have worked all over the UK in projects in schools, woodlands, festivals, day centres, pre-school groups, community centres, museums, galleries, theatres and coastal areas amongst other places.  I’ve worked with people of all ages, particularly undertaking a lot of work with pre-school children, primary-school aged children and people with learning disabilities. 

I draw much of my inspiration from the Reggio Emilia ethos and the approach of educators in Scandinavia.  I believe that we all use our imaginations and creative instincts to play, to learn, to explore, to communicate and to make sense of our surroundings, ourselves and our experiences.  Whether working in collaboration or by myself I seek to work in a way that is about engaging with this sense of exploration and playfulness.

I’m driven by working through collaborative projects which enable people to creatively explore their own ideas, imaginations and expressions.  I am especially interested in the relationship between different art forms and in exploring and expanding this through projects; linking visual and tactile art with music, dance, movement, words, stories and performance. 

I’m driven by a love of the natural world; a connection to nature, natural resources and the land feeds into all projects I work on.  I’m interested in exploring the relationship between people and places, looking at landscapes and buildings and the stories and histories associated with them.  I’m fascinated by tales, words and narratives – real and imagined – and how these can be described visually and the shadows and traces people leave on their journeys.
I’m also passionate about the quirks of human nature – by the way we collect, arrange, select, explore, create stories and make things.  I work with a wide variety of tactile materials - layering textures, colours and marks through photography, textiles, print, drawing, paint, papers, light, projections and found natural objects. 

With groups I use materials and resources specific to each project and seek to find processes which are inclusive, igniting playful exploration and imagination.  I often use combinations of natural materials, textiles, print, drawing materials, paint, papers, projections and shadows, puppets and costumes.  This has led to the creations of books, banners, installations, performances, exhibitions, and processions.  I’m interested in projects which create the opportunity for celebration, discovery, for a sense of awe, magic and enchantment. 

Finding ways to engage children with the natural world is central to my work and I’ve recently been making several wildlife-friendly spaces in school grounds as well as leading Forest School sessions in woodland and nature reserves.
I’m really passionate about documenting the adventures and discoveries that take place during projects.  I use photography a lot and have had many images used in publications, signs for school grounds and exhibitions.  I’m very influenced by the pedagogical documentation undertaken in Reggio and in projects I spend a lot of time observing and recording children’s learning and creative explorations.

Training / qualifications :
·          Level 3 Forest School Leader, Archimedes (2010 – 2011).
·          International Study visit, Swedish Reggio Institute, with Sightlines Initiative (2009)
·          International Study Visit, Danish Reggio Network / Forest Schools, with Sightlines Initiative (2008)
·          International Study Visit, Pedagogical Documentation, Reggio Emilia, Italy, with Sightlines Initiative (2007)
·          Bretton Hall College (1988 – 1991, BA (Hons) in Fine Art / Inter Arts).  Lincoln Art College (BTEC General Art and Design, 1987 – 1988)


Current / Recent Projects:
My professional practice has several strands – incorporating commissions, collaborative projects with other artists and with community groups and delivering training; all aspects of my work cross-over into each other.  Having spent many years travelling around the UK working with groups I’ve now developed the way I work so that I can foster long-term and in-depth residencies.  I relish being able to work with young people in this way and am resident artist at Dunkirk Primary and Nursery School (Nottingham).  I’ve recently worked on long projects with Highbank Primary School (Nottingham), Berridge Infant and Nursery (Nottingham), Welbeck Primary (Nottingham).

I’ve run many training sessions for teachers, early years practitioners and others and have put together many training and information resources.  I’ve made presentations and led workshops at several conferences.  I was one of the lead artists on an early years project with West Sussex County Council which led to the creation of DVD and book about early years arts work.  I’ve recently written a chapter for a book on creative participation (“Creative Approaches to Participation” edited by Helen Manchester and published by Routledge, 2011). 



I’ve been collaborating with artist Katy Doncaster for several years on many projects including processional work and installations for community groups. We are undertaking a long term research project – Stories Out Of Place – which began with a collaboration with the National Trust and an Arts Council Artists Development Grant (2007/08).