This section is from the book "Arts & Crafts Magazine Vol1-2", by Hutchinson & Company.
Mr. Halsey Ricardo said he would add a little bit to the possible irritation of the meeting by putting some aphorisms from the artisan's point of view rather than from the teacher's. The first is, that not all the pupils are going to be artists, nor can we teach them how to become so. The most one can say about the teaching of design is that such pupils as show a capability of observation and an inborn quality of design can be directed and guided, and meanwhile those who have not the quality of design need not be the least bit discouraged, because there is a lot of handicraft that requires working, and if it is honestly done it becomes art. You may not be able to teach design, you may not be able to teach art, but you can teach technical excellence, and all forms of art are really based on technical excellence. Teach the pupil the commonsense of his vocation; the purpose of the thing he is constructing and handling. As soon as manufacture drifts away from use it ceases to be art.
Teach the pupil "Humanities" - he should be interested in his work, and in other things outside it. The pupil is his own judge of what interests him, and he is to be guided through his own choice, and not forced against his inclination. Be sparing of the museums. There is a risk of getting hold of the wrong end of the stick. The museums bore the artisan: they trouble him. All that he sees there are masterpieces. He can't see it. How many of us can recognise the masterpiece even in literature - even in Shakespeare ? Avoid the notion that art is a cult - a something apart from daily life, not to be understanded until one is properly sophisticated. If a student by putting his brains and heart into his work can show to the spectator that he has really cared, and can make the spectator in some degree by his work share his feelings, he has created a work of art. It may not be very fine art, but it is art, and there are many grades of art.
Mr. Cobden-Sanderson thought it best to postpone design until the mind of the craftsman could create design of itself. First teach him order. That is at the heart of art. Above everything, it is the function of the artist to be orderly.
Mr. W. B. Dalton, Principal of the Camberwell School of Art, agreed with Mr. Catterson-Smith that design should not be taught in elementary schools. It could not be taught. But we can teach the child to be orderly and observant. Design will come in due time, if the germ is there. The youngest children, he had observed, as a rule, have the finest share of originality in design. He would like to see more attention paid to writing - founded on 6th and 7th century manuscripts - and from writing let the mind develop to ornament. He meant writing with a quill pen - it cultivates precision and delicacy. He was very pleased to hear the remarks about memory drawing. Mr. Catterson-Smith's view was a new one to him. He had strongly impressed on his students the other view; but now he would make a change. In fact, he would have two sets working together, and see what the precise result would be. He would like to know if Mr. Catterson-Smith was in favour of teaching craftsmanship in elementary schools ?
Mr. Catterson-Smith, in closing the discussion, objected to the examples of art in the schools. There were too many of them, and they were the wrong kind. Let us be given less of the art that is dead. He would throw out the Renaissance. Michel-Angelo he would put up the chimney. Throw it over. Don't copy it. And he did not believe one should study many crafts. Give a man his tools and materials and let him perfect himself in his own craft. He did not believe that the mediaeval craftsman studied many crafts. If he was a goldsmith, he worked as a goldsmith. If he was a silversmith, he would work as a silversmith. Give a man the material, and give him the tradition of his craft, and let him work away and keep him in touch with nature, and if he does not make anything good out of that he will never make anything out of it at all. Mr. Dalton wanted to know if he advocated the teaching of craftsmanship in elementary schools ? Mr. Catterson-Smith replied he should teach it anywhere it could be taught. But mind, the genuine craftsmanship - not fraudulent shoddy stuff.
Mr. Gautree, representing the Education Board of the London County Council, said he was struck by the lack of unanimity among experts. Another thing he had noticed was that there was not a just appreciation in the audience of the elementary school. He agreed that the dominant note that we have to learn in all our art teaching is to go back to nature. The County Council had gone to nature and made arrangements with the parks to supply as many as 600,000 specimens from the parks of natural objects for use, not only for object-lessons, but also in all the art schools and art classes. Referring to the deplorable gap between the elementary school and the evening school and the arts and crafts school mentioned by Mr. Williams, he (Mr. Gautree) said that it was found that we turn out of our elementary schools some 60,000 or 70,000 children every year, and a good many more than half of them disappear entirely from the educational field - that is, they disappear for a time. But they disappear for two or three years, and then come back in considerable numbers. That gap should be bridged by some system of indirect compulsion such as they have in Germany. If it were possible to compel large employers of labour to make it a condition that they should not employ young people unless these young people are obliged to attend art classes and evening schools, say, two or three evenings a week, it would be a great work.
Mr. Walter Crane, in bringing the proceedings to an end, said that he did not agree with Mr. Gautree. He thought that, on the contrary, there had been remarkable unanimity. As to the drastic methods of Mr. Catterson-Smith, perhaps they might be necessary as an antidote for over-decoration. Still, something might be said for Michel-Angelo, and even museums might have their uses.