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Our mission to keep craft in the classroom

Five years have passed since the Crafts Council published Our Future is in the Making – a craft education manifesto. 

To honour this and to celebrate our growing movement to keep craft in the classroom, we invited teachers, school leaders, makers and education change-makers to Thomas Tallis School. With a morning of inspirational talks, progressive discussion and hands-on workshops, we reinvigorated the fight for craft education.

Lighting Talks

Two Thomas Tallis art BTEC students kicked off proceedings with details of the school’s commitment to creativity across the curriculum, both within subjects and through opportunities to work with designers and makers on projects such as a new school uniform design.

Megan Willow, a member of our Young Craft Citizens group, talked about the moments of inspirational craft learning that had been part of her education. These included a primary school headteacher helping students to make ‘hypsometers’ – tree-measuring devices – with plasticine, string and a protractor, and musical instruments from vegetables. Despite poor careers advice at secondary school, that included art and design being described as ‘hobbies’, creativity has remained an important part of Megan’s life. She is now studying Fine Art Painting at Brighton University.

Parents Fiona Veacock and Auriol Bishop talked about why it’s important that their children learn craft skills, and challenged the myth that art, craft and design are not ‘academic’ subjects. They talked about the curiosity, critical rigour and resilience that is developed by 3D making processes.

Professor Bill Lucas, Director of the Centre for Real World Learning, called for practical, hands-on learning to be brought back into the classroom. Would our education system look different if Descartes had said ‘I make, therefore I am?’

We were also joined by two teachers who took part in Make Your Future; Deepa Vekaria from Woodfield Special School in Brent (along with some of her students), who talked about the positive impact that working with clay had brought her students, and how the project had been the start of her school’s journey towards Gold Artsmark.

Vicky Bone, art teacher at Beckfoot Upper Heaton School in Bradford, talked about the surprising results she’d seen after introducing a knitting project to her year 7 students; mostly boys from BAME backgrounds with limited opportunities to engage in the arts. Though initially nervous, Vicky worked with knit researchers from the University of Leeds and found the students enjoyed working with their hands, collaborating on large-scale knit sculptures and working with the knit machines provided by the university. Vicky talked about the science and technology embedded in the project, from the engineering challenge of working with the machines, to the digital processes involved in creating self-portraits with the digital knit machines.

Nicky Dewar, the Crafts Council’s Director of Learning and Skills, framed the event in the context of our own Learning and Participation work, and our call for pledges to support craft education:

  • Woodside High School’s Year 9 Elective curriculum teacher Becca Southin has pledged to teach making skills to 25 students, 2 hours a week. Students will be introduced to paper sculptures and origami, model making, clay, textiles including sewing, knitting & fashion and printing.
  • Our first Craft Education Supporters Cox London have generously donated towards our education work but also support our learning programmes with time and expertise.
  • The wonderful jewellery designers Tatty Devine are vocal in their support of craft education and alongside our recent exhibition Misshapes, they produced a collection – Make Your Future –  with every sold piece contributing a donation to our work.
  • Textiles maker Fiona Sperrin from Cornwall has pledged to work with Game Changer, a programme that supports 16 to 24 year olds to identify and progress towards their chosen career path. She will offer a taster day or placement experience of a hand-weave textile studio.

Finally, ceramicist Helen Johannessen talked about her role as a ‘playful educator’—sparking young people’s interest in working with materials and then encouraging them to take the reins. Before this event Helen had taught Thomas Tallis’ BTEC art students some new ceramics skills, which the group then developed into a pinch pot workshop for delegates on the day.

Other Practical Activity

Our Craft Education Supporters Cox London engaged delegates with the rich possibilities that careers in craft promise.

The wonderfully animated Elizabeth Gaston from the University of Leeds got everyone involved in her human knit machine.

In the fantastic DT classrooms, teachers and students led workshops combining weaving with sublimation printing.

Finishing with a lively discussion around how we can come together to support craft in schools, the event created a galvanising moment, leaving delegates with new tools and renewed energy to fight for craft education.

Be part of the conversation in our Craft Educators Facebook Group.

Photographs courtesy Jon Nicholls.



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