15 November 2014

outside the box

the lorry stops in the road calling the traffic to a halt. a massive steel arm cranks upwards and outwards. it swings across to the pavement and a giant crab claw lowers a huge white woven bag to the ground. half a tonne of lime mortar has arrived.

i'm re-pointing my wall. hours and hours of digging and scraping with increasingly smaller and sharper implements has whiled away many days. it's felt like something between giant dentistry and cleaning the mud out of a horses hoof - many horses, many times over.

i hammer up bricks and pack nooks and crannies with 'gallets' or 'pinnings'. i ease mortar deep into the gaps until they are flush and filled. 5 hours, one bag of mortar down, at least 20 more bags to go..... it's slow but satisfying. this is something new. i've not done it before. it reminds me of working with soft clay and the tools are similar to those i've used in pottery and sculpture. and i'm mulling thoughts over in my head.

i'm feeling very angry after reading an article where education secretary nicky morgan has warned young people that choosing to study arts subjects could "hold them back for the rest of their lives". coupled with falmouth university's recent decision to close its contemporary crafts BA, art and environment and theatre courses, i'm feeling disillusioned. but i'm also feeling more determined and sure of my future plans.

it's incredibly sad that our education establishments have become big businesses where the drive for profit comes at the expense of learning. initially i thought it was about money. that contemporary crafts was too costly a course to run. that felt disappointing. but i quickly realised that if falmouth university were really concerned about the course, they would be campaigning to save it themselves. so, yes it's about money, but it's also about value and that is more dispiriting.

i could write so much about the value and benefits of craft - the exercising of logic and problem solving; body/brain co-ordination and manual dexterity; the deepening of our connection with ourselves, our past, our heritage and our environment; our vastly disregarded need for aesthetic beauty, spiritual and emotional/mental well being; and yes, in our current system - economical benefit (especially in rural areas like cornwall). and all of this seems to be enormously undervalued, yet i regard it as being of vital importance in a very fundamental human way.

to cut these courses seems incredibly short-sighted. at a time where there are floating islands of plastic choking our marine life, loss of species, habitats, wild places through the exploitation and exhaustion of natural resources, surely 'art and environment' is one of the most forward-thinking, progressive courses? especially being based here in falmouth with it's rich maritime history and natural beauty. and that's just the environmental crisis. looking at social issues with pressure on food and housing for an increasing population - surely many of the skills learnt on crafts courses are transferable creating independence to do such things as repair homes, bake bread etc. why not create courses that are unique to falmouth - that reflect and celebrate cornwall and it's unique heritage and landscape? courses that fulfil a deep human need that is timeless and sustainable - surely that is a better investment?

it seems that to take away such courses (with the potential for other arts subjects to follow) is to take away our self-expression, self-sufficiency, our playful, free-thinking, creative resourcefulness. without this we are numbed and dumbed and easier to subjugate.

when i studied at art college i became involved in running a food co-op as an alternative to supermarkets. i believed (and still do) that big businesses shouldn't control and profit from our basic need for food and survival. i regard making and creating as another primal need and tantamount for the health and survival of our society. never did i think that one day i may see the necessity to set up independent art courses as an alternative to art college.

today my cousin delivers two old wooden boxes to my studio. one is locked. my grandfather died aged 101 in july. as a young child his woodwork shed was my first introduction to tools and making. he built furniture for our bedrooms and he built boats. i feel privileged to have inherited these tools - works of craftsmanship in their own right. i also feel thankful that i know how to use them. i believe that to cut craft education and facilities in schools, colleges and universities severs a vital link to our past and denies us access to our ancestors and our roots.

why did he stick a bovril label on his mallet? i guess we'll never know!

to show your support please sign this petition to campaign against the proposed closure of contemporary crafts at falmouth university - click here

and to join the very active facebook group you can find the link here 


  1. Bravo Jo, bravo. Unrelated possibly, but I think the above is proof that art courses can teach you to craft an argument with passion and feeling and sense too

  2. thanks john! glad it makes sense to someone other than me!

  3. Well put Jo, actually bought a little tear .x

  4. Well said Jo...You have spoken from the heart.. Sometimes, it is not necessarily about the skills you learn at university it's that you were taught not to be frightened about attempting something new when you leave.. x

  5. A well written, thought out statement Jo. I am surprised more people have not acknowledged this in black and white. It is sad that the things that truly matter in the enrichment of the soul are shunned by modern thinking and when it seems cooperate matters far out way the health of our planet and the inner nourishment and practical skills of our race. John. (working down the road)