On a recent Friday night, I found myself blindfolded in front of a pre-sculpted head, a big wad of clay and a glass of wine in my hands, and was told to give the head a face.
Clearly Unarthodox‘s “Sculpt Without Sight” is no ordinary pottery class.
As a space that lets you explore your creative side, the workshop takes you out of your comfort zone and invades all your senses.
I was one of about two dozen willing to be blindfolded and accept the challenge, and once the mask came down, we were like clay in Unarthodox’s staff’s hands, and they made it their mission to inspire us through our other senses.
Music swelled, incense was lit and the wine was good. As for me, it was the perfect way to spend a Friday night — creating, drinking wine and not having to socialize. Feeling around, I molded the eyes, nose and lips and finished by adding wisps of hair around the face. There was no self-criticism to deal with. In my mind, I was sculpting something that my peers would be impressed by once the blindfolds were lifted.
But I was so wrong.
When the masks were removed, there was an eruption of laughter — most of us were sitting in front of massively deformed heads with way-too-big noses and wonky eyes.
It was a lesson in a lot of things.
“In the Sculpt Without Sight experience, you learn about yourself,” said Unarthodox co-founder Al Montagna. “People call us pottery class but it’s all about the exploration and about the sense of touch … you’re feeling your way through a mental image. “
I learned that I have good spatial awareness and imagination, but I am no artist. It was amusing to see the huge nose I had created and that the wisps of hair resembled fish gills. It definitely gave me an appreciation for actual sculptors.
The great thing about the experience was that there were no expectations to create a work of art. The only person I was trying to impress was myself and when I failed, it was no big deal.
That’s what Montagna and his partner Maria Kordova were aiming for when they launched the company three years ago.
Both of them were tired of expectations and restrictions within their industries — Montagna in graphic design and Kordova in the arts — and wanted to get back to basics.
“It’s important for people to have a space to let go,” Montagna said. “Most of the experiences we have are things we loved to do as children that we can’t do anymore. They can use their creativity, which never goes away. We have executives cutting cardboard for their costumes in a virtual reality movie.”
In addition to Sculpture Without Sight, Unarthodox offers other experiences, including one where groups create their own VR short using props, paint and cardboard. “Picture This” is a word guessing game show that combines elements of Pictionary, Charades, “Wheel of Fortune” and Clue. “IntuitiveArt” immerses guests in a 270-degree projection of two different films and asks that they paint according to the moods and emotions they evoke.
Montagna says the result of these experiences keeps him going.
“A lot of people are desperate for this to be a release,” he said. “I do see a change in people when they come to our place. I see it in their faces and it is such gratification for me.”
How to find Unarthodox: The company, which is located in Chelsea, has public Sculpture Without Sight events almost weekly, but other types of experiences need to be booked in advance, whether it’s an individual experience or a private party. More: unarthodox.com.