Red heat of craft;Television

7th May 1999 at 01:00
THE MIX: artists in Wales. Channel 4. Fridays 10.10-10.25am. To May 28. A.

ge Range: 7-11.

There's nothing quite like a blacksmith's forge to ignite the imagination: sparks fly, anvils crack and hot metal glows like the setting sun. The first of Channel 4's new series of the The Mix kicks off from one such sooty cavern in the company of David Petersen, an artist and sculptor.

David is a gentle and articulate guide to the complexities of working in metal, which could easily be baffling to children. Start with your notebook, he advises and get sketching. We watch him as he observes a bullrush "I think I know what one looks like" he says but he is not prepared for the "explosion of texture" that confronts him when he is knee deep in a marsh.

The programme follows David's hammering and heating as an iron rod is whittled into a windblown reed. It is a magical transformation, made all the more astonishing because we have watched it at every step.

David Peterson is one of five artists and craftsmen and women in this series who demonstrate how they produce a finished artefact, whether it's a painting, a photograph or, in the case of "The Gogs" (May 28), an animated Fred Flintstone look-alike.

Some of the artists are more successful than others at explaining their skills. Illustrator Jenny Jones, for instance, produces an exquisite scene from her farmyard, but her step-by-step guide would be more suited to older children, with its references to "roughing in", "blocking in", "base coats" and "medium".

Where all the programmes score is in the obvious passion the presenters feel for their art. Photographer Dave Daggers watches an emerging portrait in his darkroom with awe: "Even after all these years," he says "I'm still excited by seeing a big print for the first time".

This enthusiasm is infectious and each programme stresses the accessibility of different craft forms: you don't need expensive kit. The important thing is to look around and improvise.

Each programme covers a number of key points, collecting information, for example, selecting tools and presenting the finished product. In an interesting aside, each artist also delves into the past to unearth examples from long ago. As usual, the teacher's guide is indispensable. It gives a glossary, curriculum links, tips, teaching plans and follow-up activities.

The teacher's guide costs pound;3.95 from Channel 4 Schools, tel: 01926 436444

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