I was sad, and rather angered to hear that the BA Furniture Making course at Leeds Art College is to close, this follows news of staff cuts on the Furniture foundation degree at the London College of Furniture . Also my daughter is a student on the formerly highly respected BA Embroidery course at Manchester Metropolitan University, this is also to close. It seems that craft teaching in the UK is taking a real hit at the moment.
The closure of the Leeds course means that there is no degree course in furniture making offered north of Watford. Eventually the teaching of furniture making will be entirely privatized and regionalized. To get a professional training one will have to relocate to the south east or south west and pay for a private course, an option available perhaps to ex bankers, but not for a young person wanting to follow a passion for making things. We will be a sad country if opportunities for self fulfillment through making become the reserve of the wealthy.
I taught my four day beginners furniture making course over the last few days. The students came from a varied background, we had an alcohol abuse counselor, an architectural engineer, a graphic designer and a TV script writer. When asked why they have come on the course, to a person it was that they wanted to get away from the desk and computer for a few days and actually MAKE SOMETHING. This is the reason why there are so many crafts courses like mine springing up all over the country, textiles, woodwork, jewellery making, ceramics the list goes on. They cater for this pent up desire for creativity which is being stifled by the world of work as it is now.
The loss of making courses in higher education is being compounded by the demise of Craft Design Technology (CDT) in schools. I know CDT is a shadow of the former woodwork and metalwork that those over 40 can probably remember from school, but at least there was some making involved. Now, I am told, the position of CDT within the curriculum is being reviewed by the Government and recommendations are being made that it should be dropped from the basic curriculum to be on the same level as Citizenship. This will mean that cash strapped schools will run down a subject that is expensive to run.
Now I don’t want to sound like an old bore but I believe that the teaching of craft skills is character forming. It instills the idea of doing things right and also the judgement when something is right and, as I said before, satisfies the inate desire for creativity. We will become a sad, possibly sick, society without it.
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