Crafty little tools

25th January 2008 at 00:00
Choose your art resources carefully, as some are much better value than others.

Make and Use Books. Anna-Marie D'Cruz. Hodder Wayland. pound;11.99

Picture the scene: the school librarian sits patiently while a publisher's sales representative rattles through a binder of sell sheets.

"This one," says the rep, "is a lovely little title. Make and Use Books takes you step-by-step through the stages to make your own books. It has eight projects, showing you how to make, among other things, a folding book, a lift-the-flap book and even a family photo album.

"It even explains the origins of each project - explaining the history, science or craft that enabled each item to come about."

This is exactly the type of book that can only be sold from a sell sheet. It looks good on paper, it sounds good in theory.

In practice, however, it fails on one major count. It is pound;11.99. This, for a book that runs to 24 pages and has eight projects (a least two of which can be downloaded from the Nuffield website).

It is also very drab in its presentation, with photos of girls in stilted poses with books clearly made by the graphic designer standing behind the cameraman.

These photos would be a major turn-off for any boys wishing to try out any of the projects.

It's a shame there isn't any way to forewarn that poor school librarian.

Mark Aston teaches at Mowbray First School in Northumberland.

Sculptural Materials in the Classroom. Peter Clough. AC Black Publishers pound;12.99

This book was first published in 1998. It is an introduction to using clay, plaster of Paris, card and junk, wood and wire, in the primary classroom.

It is a good introduction, nicely illustrated with both the work of children and professional artists.

The book opens by explaining why "the three dimensional experience" is good for primary pupils. It goes on to explore cross curricular links and it provides a number of starting points for teachers who may not be art specialists.

The starting points are quite wide and leave much room for personalising them to fit different classroom situations. Most emphasis is given to the use of clay and plaster of Paris.

This is fair enough because they are perhaps the most difficult for the non-specialist.

Clay has 19 pages covering types, how to select it, storage, working methods and finishing methods.

The author also gives recipes for Play-Doh and salt dough, which are two useful materials, especially for younger children.

Plaster of Paris has 20 pages covering the material, mixing and working, plaster bandages, casting, armatures and supports, small and large scale works, moulds and other ways to use this versatile material.

He does not mention the potential dangers of working with plaster of Paris, the fact that it can get very hot and it is not advisable to mix it with your hands. The other three materials get less coverage, but the information is sound and useful.

Each section finishes by showing three projects to do with the material and the suggested age range, the starting point and the list of materials you will need.

The final part of the book covers using museums, galleries and artists in residence.

This section opens up more possibilities for non-specialist teachers and the artist in residence idea is powerful and stimulating for pupils and staff.

Overall, I felt that this book was a good starting point for the non specialist. It did what it set out to do without any fuss.

However, the book may be getting a little dated and it certainly needs to emphasise the potential danger of children handling plaster of Paris in lessons.

Phil Gamble teaches design technology in Nottingham.

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