This section is from the book "Arts & Crafts Magazine Vol1-2", by Hutchinson & Company.
Lectures dealing with the historical and scientific considerations of some of the crafts should also form part in the school work.
So far, the teaching has dealt only with evening classes, and indeed most of it must be included in this, as the students working in the shops during the day time will find it almost impossible to attend classes except after their day's work. At their best, the work of the evening classes must be limited, and it is only possible to supplement the work done in the workshop. If the student is engaged during the day in the practice of his trade, then the teaching in the evening class will be of value in raising the standard of his practical work and giving him some training in design and the correct appreciation of craftsmanship; but it cannot claim to teach a trade to those who are not engaged during the daytime in similar work. I do not suggest that the class work should be narrowly restricted to the particular division of craft in which the student is engaged. When a silversmith, for example, wishes to enrich a piece of his work by chasing or engraving he should be encouraged to do so, and the same applies to the other crafts.
The evening classes must be made more efficient in the future, and we have to look to the masters in the elementary schools to help us in this. At the present there is a gap between the time when the boy leaves the elementary school, say, at 14 or 15, and his attendance at the Art School, which is often not until he is 17 or 18, and, as already noticed, many of those engaged in the artistic crafts do not attend classes at all. It is to this period of non-attendance that we owe so many of our difficulties in the art and technical schools. In the two or three years the boy forgets much that he has learnt in the elementary school, and, instead of the work of the Art School following on and being progressive, it has to be gone through again, and much time lost just when the student should have been able to bring all the knowledge gained at the elementary school to bear upon the technical work. Every endeavour should be made to bridge over this gap, so that the Art School work follows on in natural sequence to that of the elementary school.
While this paper was being prepared I had the pleasure of reading a series of articles by Mr. A. H. Christie, the Art Inspector for the London County Council Classes. These dealt with art instruction in schools, chiefly so far as it concerns elementary and secondary schools.
I can do no more than refer to these articles here, but if only the artisan of the future could have a foundation of art teaching such as is there recommended, the work of the art and technical schools would be enormously advanced, and the boys leaving the elementary schools would be more likely to pass on to the Art Schools to continue their instruction without losing two or three years, as they so often do now. In connection with this subject, it would be well if, during the last year or so of the boy's attendance at the elementary school, the masters could send or bring some of those who they consider to have special aptitude in the direction of handicraft work, to the art and technical schools, so that they may have some opportunity of seeing the different trades at work. This might sometimes lead to suitable boys entering the skilled art trade for which they are specially suited.
Now that we have in London one authority for all grades of education, we may look forward in the future to some co-operation on the part of both elementary and Art Schools to their mutual advantage.
The question of art training in the day time presents many difficulties that do not occur in the evening work, but such classes will be found more necessary in the future than has hitherto been the case.
That employers will allow their apprentices or younger workers to attend such classes to any extent is doubtful at the present time, though some in the silver-working trades have done so on Saturday mornings. In the future, when art and technical schools are better known and have proved their usefulness to the trades, the practice will be more general.
In Germany it is customary to send the apprentice to the technical schools during the daytime, but the conditions there are different to those in England.
Where day Art Schools are established it might be possible for some of the elder boys, still under the control of the elementary school, to attend on one or more days each week at the Art School, only such boys being selected as would be likely to benefit by the instruction. The teaching given would necessarily be somewhat of the nature of manual training, but would include subjects which have not hitherto been taught under that heading.
Manual training in the elementary schools consists mainly of mechanical rather than artistic craft work. With the special staff and equipment available in the art and technical school, it would more nearly correspond to the actual craft than is possible in the elementary school. In this way promising pupils would be brought directly under the notice of the teachers in the technical school, and would be recommended to obtain work in the trade at the completion of their elementary school time, or, by means of scholarships, attend for a period of three years to be instructed in one of the crafts. To do this would necessitate some means of maintenance during the three years, as in most cases the parents of the artisan class would be unable to keep the boy during his period of tuition, and parochial funds are sometimes available for this. The system of art exhibitions and scholarships granted by the London County Council for some years past has been of great service in helping on the art training of the artisan in the evening classes, and the establishment of more day scholarships for three years with maintenance allowance would be productive of much good.
At the present time there is a tendency on the part of boys leaving elementary schools to seek employment as clerks. If the special examinations for artisan art day scholarships and the preparation of the candidates for these turned their attention towards the crafts as a means of livelihood, this would affect not only the successful ones, but those who failed to gain a scholarship might be inclined to look to the crafts rather than to clerkships as their work in life, and so tend to raise the level of the artisan in the art trade by bringing in more of those specially suited for such work.
The training of those attending day classes for three years would necessarily differ from that in the evening classes. Work at the bench would fill the greater part of the time, and should be as comprehensive as possible; in fact, the nearer the school corresponded to a well-arranged workshop the better. In these classes, too, the student coming straight from the elementary school should make quicker progress.
At the end of the three years' study, although he could not claim to be a master of his trade (nothing but a period spent in an actual workshop can ensure that), yet he would be capable of taking his place as a learner or improver in a better grade of workshop than would have been otherwise possible, and have more knowledge of the different branches than he would have gained had he gone straight from the elementary school into the workshop, and the time spent in study would be well compensated for later on in his career.
The subject of day classes is comparatively a new one, and I have only briefly touched upon it. The evening classes alone present enough problems, and I hope that this paper may at any rate be sufficient to raise some points for discussion which may help forward the work with which most of us are concerned.