Dena Bagi

Dena Bagi (MA, AFHEA) is a researcher and gallery-based learning designer, who works closely with community members and artists to curate clay workshops, projects and learning/play spaces. She believes passionately that working with clay can have a profound effect on ‘healing’ and health in general. Dena has worked in gallery-based engagement contexts for over a decade, holding management positions at the British Ceramics Biennial, Manchester Craft and Design Centre and Manchester Museum. She has designed play spaces, workshops and masterclasses for the Ceramics Biennial, Venice Biennial, Kettles Yard and Tate Liverpool, among others. Key projects include #claypitbcb and #embodiedclaybcb. Dena also teaches Masters students at Manchester School of Art in and around the area of gallery-based engagement. She shares her work in academic and gallery/maker-focused journals. Follow #clayworksphd and #claypedagogy for links to publications.

Thesis Title: Clay Works? Can a ‘clay pedagogy’ be designed, which utilises maker-methods, to have a specific value in addiction recovery?

My PhD explores how the utilization of clay may act as an aid to both the social and cathartic elements of the addiction recovery process. Could an entry into a simple community provide those in recovery with the skills they need to thrive within a positive social landscape? Or could a ‘transcendence’ into an embodied state, initiated by engaging with the transformative or metaphoric attributes of clay, enable a trauma sufferer to access and nurture events that trigger the use of substances, for example? The gallery’s pedagogical landscape is a ripe environment in which these questions can explored. Play and embodied practice are heavily used in the gallery learning landscape, as are maker methods – both as key pedagogic methods. I therefore propose to utilise the gallery learning landscape to engage those in recovery in clay embodied practice. The aim is to ascertain the best pedagogical model to effectively transfer clay practice into an addiction recovery journey. I then wish to share this journey with the wider gallery learning community, via a publication titled #claypedagogy, to ensure legacy and initiate further impact-based work that can be completed with relation to clay, as well as general wellbeing and healing.

Award Date: 01/09/2025

Principal Supervisor: Professor Andrew Livingstone

Second Supervisor: Professor Catherine Hayes