"Every Child is an Artist….". (Getting Kids Crafty Part 1)

“Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.”
–  Pablo Picasso

source: unknown

As much as I want to believe the words of Picasso, if this recent article in the Guardian Newspaper: End of the creation story? Design and craft subjects decline in schools’, is anything to go by, forget about being a creative adult, even our children will struggle to be artists and will grow up ignorant of the creative arts. This makes me sad.

So sad, that I’ve decided to climb upon my soap-box and have a little (well, not so little as it spans 2 blog posts!!) rant on the topic……

Whilst I obviously appreciate the need for education to focus on academic subjects in order to get strong foundations in place, our children still need a diversity of learning throughout their time at school. There must be a balance if we are to allow children to discover their interests and talents – in whatever field they may lie. I for one know that my time at school would have been far less enjoyable  had I not had the chance to take courses in textiles and design technology…I mean, ‘Come On!’ Who didn’t get a buzz from the achievement of making a knife rack in woodwork?!!. For me these were the lessons that offset my boredom in learning about the Periodic Table or Chaucer and his Canterbury Tales. I could put up with the subjects that didn’t interest me because round the corner there was something that would. That made school ok. 

Photo Source: Drew Kelly. NY Times

Quite apart from providing a more fulfilling education, according to research carried out by The Craft Council, studying creative subjects teach transferable skills that all children can take into their adult life.

“Learning craft skills has a range of educational benefits: it fosters creative thinking, innovative learning, visual awareness, skills which aid cognitive development, as well as haptic skills (the sense of touch).

Craft skills also provide children with a firmer grasp of the 3D world, which in turn develops problem solving skills. These are important to all manner of professions, including manufacturing, medicine and software design.

Practical learning, including craft, can have positive impacts on behaviour and on the extent to which pupils engage in school. Evidence shows that pupils who are positively engaged in learning are less likely to have behaviour problems.”

Along with changes to the focus of the curriculum, it would appear that funding cuts are largely to blame for the decline in craft subjects in schools and higher education. Resources are scarce and the teacher training, space and equipment required to run such courses is expensive. Instead investment is concentrated in those areas (such as elaborate I.T suites)  that are deemed to produce more economic wealth in the future , but as Rachel Williams in the Guardian states far better than I could:

Source: http://www.vam.ac.uk/page/h/handmade-in-britain/

“The decline (..in education) sits strangely with the growing popularity of crafts, both in the luxury goods market and at grassroots level…..It’s a sector that makes a contribution to the economy and has the potential to be a much greater export business as well. There’s a dissonance between the way craft is perceived by the public and amongst adults, and the way we’re investing in supporting schools to keep that happening.

…..there are countries that have absolutely recognised why the UK is so good at creative arts and they’re looking to replicate it themselves. The number of art and design colleges China has opened over the last 10 years has been phenomenal. When production has been so decimated in this country, to put design at risk is just fatal.

Of course, we do live in a far more digital world now – children, boys especially, are often drawn to building imaginary worlds on an iPad using ‘Minecraft’ instead of using Lego. They race cars on a games console rather than setting up a Scaletrix track and playing with actual cars. I’m not saying the advance in digital disciplines is disastrous and I’m certainly not against progressive change, just that it shouldn’t be at the sacrifice of the 3D , physical world. Without a digital context, we are in danger of making crafts ‘uncool’. It is however possible for the two to compliment each other, using technology in the design process whilst still actually ‘making’ using our hands and tools.

Source: Minecraft

The Craft Council are working hard to re-introduce crafts into schools with initiatives and partnerships such as Craft Club  and ‘Firing-Up’ (encouraging and helping teachers to re-fire dormant kilns in schools and allowing kids to make things from clay) but these are all too often extra-curricular, outside the school day and rely on parent or carer volunteers or teachers putting in extra hours.  

Unless there is a sudden u-turn on government policy and an injection of cash into arts education funding, it appears that it will become our responsibility to ensure our children lead creative lives.

To be continued………x

(If you liked this article, please see my blog post ‘Sticks and Stones’ which continues on from this one) xx

One thought on “"Every Child is an Artist….". (Getting Kids Crafty Part 1)

  1. Nice post(s) Sis, more power to your elbow. Just one reflection – I'm not sure even if kids today do get the chance to develop their skills at the woodwork bench at school, a knife-rack is on the curriculum like in our days. A knife-rack! What were they thinking of?!


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