Recent years have seen a decline in craft and creative education in schools and a shift from practical to theoretical learning models in higher education. Young people are leaving school with no idea that craft-based careers are even possible, and graduates of craft-based degree courses are entering the workplace with so few hand skills that their employers must train them from scratch.
Where did the idea come from that white-collar work should be rewarded more with money and status than that of a blue-collar worker? Intelligent Hands looks at this phenomenon, the historical precedents that led us here and why hand skills are crucial in education and for lifelong learning.
The authors are on a mission to enlighten the uninitiated and persuade the nay-sayers who dismiss craft as no more than a nice hobby or believe that doing things with your hands is for those who can’t use their heads. And for the converted, we offer more grist to your mills, ammunition for funding applications, inspiration for those who plan school curricula and further reading for your speciality.
Intelligent Hands brings existing research and information together in an accessible format for those for those who don’t have time to trawl through all the information that is already out there. With a brief look at the history of practical education, we have collated some of the research that has been done in disparate fields to show that combining physical ways of learning with the conceptual in education is the way forward.
We include the personal stories of ten people who have discovered that working with their hands has improved their quality of life. Through the three sections of the book – The nature of work; Education and learning; Community; Health and wellbeing – we look at how physical labouring became separated from academic study, how we became divorced from the materials that surround us and the important role that the crafts and creativity have to play in education, not just for the lower streams, but for everyone. In short, how making is a skill for life.
Charlotte Abrahams is a writer and curator specialising in design and the applied arts. She trained at Central St Martin’s and since then has written regularly for the national and international press, including Guardian Weekend and the Financial Times. She is the author of several books about pattern and wallpaper and one on the Danish concept of Hygge. She is less good at making than the people she writes about, but she is teaching herself to darn.
Katy Bevan is a writer and educator specialising in craft and mother of a disabled child. She is the editor of many books on craft and writes for textile and craft magazines such as Selvedge. Previously at the Crafts Council she founded the publishing company Quickthorn Ltd in 2022. She blogs at The Crafter , runs workshops in darning, crochet and knitting and is mostly to be found knitting.
Foreword by Jay Blades MBE
Jay is dyslexic and, after leaving school at 15 with no qualifications, he eventually managed to get back on track studying for a degree in criminology and philosophy at Buckinghamshire New University (BNU). He then found his true vocation in restoration and supporting young and vulnerable people to find their own access to work.
Known across the UK as the host of BBC One’s extraordinarily successful ‘The Repair Shop’, it is perhaps no coincidence that his belief in the restoration of objects stems from a belief that humans too can be repaired, fixed and rejuvenated. He is the living embodiment of that. His restoration company, Jay & Co, aims to ’save the world’ through craft. Working with recycled, reclaimed and reused materials, accessories, furniture, and fabric, they create pieces that are as good as new, and help develop a more holistic approach to interiors.
Published 30 Sept 2023.
Cover image: Cleo Mussi Mosaics Photo Carmel King