23rd April 1999 at 01:00
MADE IN BRITAIN. The Crafts in Britain in the Twentieth Century. By Tanya Harrod. Yale University Press pound;45.

Printed on Aberdeen Silk paper, and with more than 500 glossy illustrations of crafts and practitioners, this sumptuous book looks more likely to grace middle-class coffee tables than the design and technology reference section of poverty stricken school libraries. And the national curriculum says craft is part of the art, craft and design curriculum so design and technology teachers might consider it beyond their remit.

But this would be a mistake. The Crafts in Britain in the Twentieth Century is a substantial volume, full of references to designermakers, their place in society and their relationship with architecture, galleries and industry.

Tanya Harrod presents ideas and arguments rather than a chronological history. She maps the changing values placed on the crafts and the contribution of education. She reminds us of the ideals of William Morris, and offers alternative definitions of craft such as Herbert Read's 1931 anti-industrialist "Canvas-free artists". She describes the spontaneous style of the Omega Workshops, presents the case for the "Morality of Mass Manufacture" at the Festival of Britain in 1951, and brings us up to date with Stephen Bayley's definition of design as the "art of the 20th century".

Above all, the love of making comes across with phrases such as "immediate and heart-stopping ceramics and textiles of the inter-war years". Famous names such as Bernard Leach, John Makepeace and Constance Howard feature alongside the anonymous crafting of willow baskets and cricket bats.

The essential Englishness of it all is explored, backed up by photographs from family albums across the country. Inspirational retailers such as Heals, and Waring and Gillow with their Fifties styling "down to the ashtrays" are given credit, as are visionary education authorities such as Leicestershire in the 1960s.

The author explains how the Coldstream Report of 1962 marginalised the crafts and created the now familiar divisions of graphics, textiles and three-dimensional design.

This publication has much to offer the design and technology teacher, in terms of its cultural and social history and in the "learning by doing" challenges it presents. Recently Education Secretary David Blunkett reminded us to maintain our technological emphasis. This book reminds us of our cultural heritage and the innovation that comes from hands-on activity.

Patricia Tarrant Brown is a teacher of design and technology in a West Midlands school. She works as an inset provider with Mill Wharf Training and as a consultant to the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority

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