This section is from the book "Arts & Crafts Magazine Vol1-2", by Hutchinson & Company.
Formerly it was the general practice that the artisan served an apprenticeship of several years . during which he was trained in all the branches of his trade, and became in the true sense of the word a handicraftsman. In many cases now a box-haves the elementary school, enters a workshop 01 factory, and in a very short space of time is engaged upon some comparatively trivial work, perhaps attending to a machine which is stamping out pieces of metal to be used as ornaments for jewellery, filing up castings, or soldering them together, and so he goes on day after day. Of art training he gets nothing, of technical skill he learns very little. Although this is the position of many of the younger artisans engaged in so-called artistic crafts, yet there are many workshops, generally small ones, and employing few hands, in which the work done is really handicraft, and where the apprentice and young craftsman have an opportunity of Learning their trade; yet even here the work is often of a special character, and they have little opportunity of gaining any knowledge of the other branches which are not practised at their particular workshop. There are some, but they form a minority, who are employed in shops or studios where the work executed is really artistic and the conditions favourable to the workers.
These represent some of the different classes for whose benefit the various arts and crafts classes are established, and before passing to the consideration of the best methods of tuition we may note how far the classes are appreciated by the artisans.
Although the attendance at such classes is growing, and in many cases quite rapidly, yet those who avail themselves of the teaching are still a small proportion of the number engaged in the industries, and it has not vet become a general or recognised procedure for the boy to consider attendance at the Art School the natural course on entering the trade workshop.
In speaking of the Art School I mean one where the crafts are taught in conjunction with design; this limitation is necessary only for the purpose of preventing any misunderstanding in my paper, but does not in any way imply that the work of the Art School as generally understood is or should be confined to this.
As these classes are held in the evening, after the boys have finished their day's work at the shop of perhaps nine or ten hours, we can scarcely wonder that many do not feel inclined to give up the short leisure they have to attend classes when very often the benefits to be arrived at are not immediately apparent. It is indeed a matter of congratulation when we consider that so many are found who will give up three or four nights each week lor several months in the year so that they may pursue a course of study at the Art School.
Seeing, therefore, that for these students the Art School is the place in which most of their spare time is spent, we ought to make the class-rooms as attractive as possible in addition to equipping them with all the appliances necessary for the work undertaken. This is not always done, and some class-rooms must have a distinctly depressing effect on the students working in them. Rooms that arc well supplied with casts, specimens of work or frames with photographs, prints or drawings having some relation to the branch of industry carried on there, will certainly influence the students and their work. This applies mainly to the rooms where the practical classes are held; the drawing, design and modelling rooms should be furnished with as many examples as possible illustrating the subjects taught in the classes, and also including specimens of handicraft with which the students are not directly concerned. Electrotypes of metal work, casts of architectural work, sculpture, wood carving and ivories, photographs, prints and illustrations should all be found there, and it is a great advantage if these can be grouped together so that they represent separate branches of the crafts. Students would then have them close at hand for reference while they are at work in the class.
Speaking generally, most of the artisan students join the schools mainly for the practical or workshop classes, and not for such subjects as drawing, design or modelling, nor do they as a rule regard these latter as essential. The elementary schools have been in the past somewhat to blame for this, though there has been much improvement of late. On speaking to artisans of twenty years or older, I can rarely find that they have any pleasant recollections of the drawing lessons of their school days. Having to draw from copies of little interest to them has left behind a dislike of anything connected with drawing, and a prejudice not easy to overcome.
It is also, perhaps, three or four years since most of the students have left the elementary schools, and from that time they have done little, if any, drawing. The day's work at the bench constitutes all they have had in the way of training, and their attendance at the Art School is chiefly due to a desire to become acquainted with some of the technical operations of their trade which they have had no opportunity of learning in the workshop, or else to become more proficient in their own class of work.
There are some who do join the design or modelling classes without taking the practical subjects; in these cases they often come from workshops where the work done is of a higher grade. At our Institute we have found it advisable to arrange special courses for the different trades. On one night drawing, design, or modelling for the particular craft, and on other evenings the practical work, when the special trade instructor is present. The drawing, design, and modelling is thus arranged to meet the special requirements. Some of the trades require more of one than the other.
Engravers, for example, are chiefly concerned with drawing, and the lessons include short lectures and demonstrations on such subjects as heraldry, lettering or monograms, whilst wood and stone carvers, chasers and embossers, and those whose work deals with form in relief make modelling the more important subject. The necessity for drawing or modelling is not so keenly felt in some industries as in others. An engraver must be efficient, as his work consists of drawing with the graver on metal instead of with the pencil on paper, and he appreciates the importance of the subject, whereas in the case of a silversmith the necessity is not so apparent.