Thinking through Making

Sara Flynn, Camber vessel, Thrown and altered porcelain, manganese-rich glaze, 2015

Sara Flynn, Camber vessel, Thrown and altered porcelain, manganese-rich glaze, 2015


September 30 2015

David Whiting’s recent ‘viewpoint’ piece in Crafts Magazine was an excellently written, if depressing, analysis of the continuing trend in closing practice based craft courses (apparently there is another ceramics course under threat at City and Islington College). However what’s even worse is the news that while some courses may no longer exist, their academic arm could still remain. Funding courses that talk about making while getting rid of courses where people actually make clearly is not the way to go.

As Whiting succinctly points out ‘ the developing obsession with theory has eroded much of the empirical heart of ceramics, when the two could actually be living happily side-by-side in mutually beneficial co-existence.’ It reminded me of a recent OECD study, which concluded that investing heavily in school computers, and classroom technology does not improve pupil performance. No doubt there were previous studies, which encouraged schools to invest heavily in school computers and classroom, to improve pupil performance…

After all the practice based courses have disappeared, will a future study on applied arts and crafts courses recommend that colleges allow students more time in the workshop to actually make things…hopefully it won’t come to that. From October 1-31, work by a number of Ireland’s leading makers can be seen at an exhibition entitled In Residence at Six Fitzroy Square in London. It includes new work by Sara Flynn whose exploration of the vessel form began at the Crawford College of Art & Design in the eighties, when she first got her hands on clay. For Flynn, who has since established a very successful international career, the theoretical continues to be expressed through the medium and the physicality of making. Isn’t that what makes craft so special?


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Frances McDonald