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Friedrich Nagler Inspires Us to Make!

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Louise Dennis, community artist, writes about her recent workshops inspired by the artist Friedrich Nagler, at Hove Museum and Art Gallery.

‘Creativity involves breaking out of established patterns in order to look at things in a different way’ (Edward De Bono)

It was my pleasure to run creative workshops recently at Hove Museum taking inspiration from the fantastic Friedrich Nagler exhibition. The only thing necessary to bring was your imagination and a willingness to look with fresh eyes at everyday objects as Friedrich Nagler did.

As De Bono said, ‘this simple process of focusing on things that are normally taken for granted is a powerful source for creativity’. Nagler was very skilled at turning the ordinary into something extraordinary and helping the viewer to see something a different way. To encourage this kind of creative ‘lateral’ thinking I collected a range of ordinary or recycled materials including metal clamps, bolts, screws, hooks, stones, pine cones, feathers, corks, plastic pegs, plastic bottles and loads more – the list could go on and on.

I was excited to see what would be created in the workshops  – and I wasn’t disappointed.

A little elephant – I love the paper clips used for his ears

One workshop took place in the room surrounded by Friedrich Nagler’s work, enabling us to directly refer to it. A young girl marvelled at the bread sculptures and everyone enjoyed the animals made from metal hardware. This workshop was full of laughter as people were amused and perhaps surprised by their creations.

Who would have thought you could make a singing diva out of a pinecone?!

A teenage boy looked intelligently at a small flattish, slightly curved stone. What did it look like? What would it become? ‘A crocodile!’ he said – and then I could see it too. He set about painting with great skill. His grandmother, who made a royal looking character out of a champagne cork (it was the metal fixing on the cork that inspired her), said that the afternoon had been very relaxing and meditative.

Stone painting

A royal character in gold.

Members of the Nagler family came along including his three great grandchildren. The youngest great-grandchild was very pleased with his creation: a dog that he had made from a stone – and delighted that he was able to take it home. The Nagler family children seemed to take very easily to the task of finding creatures and characters within the hardware available. They made a flat metal dog with ears cocked forwards and backwards and a face with intense eyebrows! Another delight was the stone painting of a face and a skull done on either sides of the same stone.

Creative work by the Nagler family

The atmosphere veered between exuberant and lively to very calm and almost meditative: children and parents worked alongside each other, everyone in their own creative zone. One parent commented that she had most enjoyed ‘the freedom of creativity’.

Two cork women and a mixed media dog – an afternoon’s work for a father and daughter.

More creatures and characters – spot Hove Museum’s Nadja Derungs immortalised in cork and pipe cleaners!


It was refreshing and fun to create in this way and it has renewed my ability to see ordinary objects in new ways – I hope those that came to the workshops took that away with them too.

Friedrich Nagler used such a wide range of materials including wood, found objects, metal, plastic, rubber, bread, clay and bone to make a truly vast collection of animals and characters. This exhibition provides such rich material to stimulate imagination and creativity – it was a delight to plan and facilitate these workshops.

You can still see the Friedrich Nagler exhibition until 17th September at Hove Museum.

Louise Dennis, community artist