Sunday, 20 March 2011

Making and teaching

After giving a lecture last week which explored the idea of teaching as craft, I am working on an article based on this theme for Adults Learning, which will also be posted here. As often happens when I am excited about a bundle of linked ideas, I seem to stumble across relevant work by other people all the time, without trying, by accident. Today I was catching up on some music programmes using Iplayer and I noticed a radio 3 talk given last week by Edmund de Waal, the author of The Hare with Amber Eyes, which is about the history of his collection of netsuke (see above for an example), on his enthusiasm for The Wrench, a novel by Primo Levi, a wonderful book I've been re-reading as part of my work on craft. A version of this talk was published in the Financial Times last week, at

There is an interesting commentary on de Waal's discussion at Annjrippin's blog at Ann Rippin is a quilter, but clearly language and concepts, perhaps what she calls 'embodied knowing' are shared. She notes that 'He describes the experience of reflecting on something that you have created and the surprises it can bring, as ‘the epiphany where you see what you have made is different from what you had conceived.’ Very often artists experience this as disappointment or failure, Turner’s famous gap between what was in his imagination and what he was able to put on the canvas and the sense of frustration that can bring, but de Waal sees it in a much more positive light. It is an epiphany, which suggests new beginnings, possibly the receiving of a gift, certainly a happy apparition.'

This realism, the recognition that perfection is an illusion and a distraction rather than a goal, combined with what de Waal describes bluntly as a 'contempt for shoddiness' is what we need to foster in our teachers - and this cannot be done by focussing solely on what they do, because ultimately it is an issue of character, about the kind of person they are. The craft attitude is about trying to lead what Montaigne would call 'a good life', understood in the moral sense. Craft is about morality...

More to come on this very rich seam.....

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