Art, Handwork & Crafts

Art

When practising artistic activities children experience their own soul realm, thus art lives within every lesson in a variety of forms from both the actual activity of painting and drawing to the artistic expression of the teacher in the wider realm. Steiner viewed the value of art for children in the following way: “... it is art that awakens their intelligence to life.  ......If children are taught to comprehend things in a living way they become 'able' people..... children who engage in art learn to be creative people.......  However clumsily a child ...paints, this activity awakens inner soul forces.”

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Painting and drawing is integrated into the main lesson from Class 1 and thus remains, on the whole, the domain of the class teacher from Class 1-8. In the Upper School painting and drawing comes through lessons in Class 9 on black and white drawing and in painting lessons in Class 10. In the Upper School they are taught by specialist teachers rather than a Class teacher. In addition, in the Upper School the arts programme is supported by the complementary role of the craft programme.

Method and content

  • Classes 1 to 2 – wet-on-wet painting, with imaginative colour stories; simple modelling exercises; regular drawing of motifs from fairy tales, nature stories, fables and legends
  • Classes 3 to 5 - form arises out of colour; motifs are taken from main lessons, for example, animals, plants, stories; tertiary colours are gradually introduced
  • Classes 6 to 8 - the introduction of veil painting; colour and linear perspective; black and white drawing, using charcoal; introduction of pastels
  • Classes 9 to 10 - the natural world; learning to see, mainly observational focusing on process, media and technique; deepening colour modulation and dynamics; project-based producing a ‘body of work’ that is structured and self-managed; encompassing the ancients and the renaissance.

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Classes 11 to 12 - romanticism, analysis, developing independence, increasing breadth at first and depth, originality and mature work. Teaching becomes facilitating, a one-to-one need-to-know basis in terms of techniques; academic input; a collaboration; individual thinking, motivation, demonstrating a comprehension that is broad yet contemporary.

Handwork & Crafts

Learning through doing is at the core of the Waldorf curriculum. Practical work stems from the emerging will forces that are nurtured by imitation in the early years.  All practical work throughout the following years follows this core ethos of watching, imitating/copying, learning, doing and finally understanding. ‘I hear and I forget, I see and I remember, I do and I understand’ - from an old Chinese saying, but still most relevant to the way practical work is learnt today. Handwork lessons are more than a means of promoting dexterity and skill. Working with the hands, through rhythmically repeated movements and exercises while working on tasks suited to the age of the children, helps to bring about both a strengthening of the will and of the capacity for logical thinking. Through this work we also aim to foster a social awareness; to value the work of other people.

Method and content

Handwork is taught in Classes 1-7. The formative qualities of above/below, heavy/light, light/dark, and inside/outside form the basis of the work. All the tasks are done not for their own sake, but in order to develop the capacities of the children. A workshop atmosphere is encouraged to create an environment that will enable creativity and a joy for the work. Projects always have a practical purpose and aim to be aesthetically pleasing.

The curriculum is age-appropriate and builds on the skills of the children as they grow. In Class 1, children start to learn knitting and basic sewing skills on felt, progressing to Class 7 when pupils learn to use a sewing machine. Along the way, they learn such skills as crochet, cross-stitch and creating felt animals from their own patterns.

From Class 8 onwards Handwork gives way to Craft lessons. They are taught in small groups on a rotational basis. In Class 12 there is no Craft curriculum. As students mature and develop through the teenage years, the materials they engage with become harder and denser. Skills and techniques needed to master these materials grow in complexity.  With metalwork, heat is one of the added elements; in joinery precise working, additional specialist tools; in basket weaving, fine hand dexterity skills and coordination are developed.

Class 8. In metalwork, students are first introduced to copper, a relatively soft metal that is easily shaped.  Joinery is the student’s first introduction to the precise forming and joining of wood, which requires accuracy in measuring and cutting. In basket weaving, students are introduced to form and they shape objects and baskets into all shapes and sizes.

Class 9. In this, the year of will, the crafts focus on a progression of skills and techniques: black and white drawing fosters an understanding of polarities - right and wrong, light and dark - which are at the heart of this age. Modeling with clay gives a relationship to form and a sense of groundedness. Willow is used in basket weaving, a harder material than cane, helping to develop a stronger hand-eye coordination. In joinery, skills progress through the learning and making of more difficult joints and the making of various items. Copper work continues in metalwork, a test of perseverance and will in the raising of a vase from a flat disc of copper.

Class 10. In this year, the dark time of soul awakening, the work is designed to keep the young student alert and interested in the world outside, while allowing them to explore awakening inner feelings. Blacksmithing involves students deeply with the elements of fire and iron, requiring courage and focus. Through the age-old techniques of pottery, the students learn to work clay into functional and beautiful objects. In Cartonage students work with paper and card in 3 dimensions, which develops neat working habits and an eye for accuracy. Joinery and bookbinding work on similar skills.

Class 11. Students are taking steps towards independent thinking, and crafts become more specialised and sophisticated. Students undertake silverwork, bookbinding, stone carving and joinery.