ORIGINALLY POSTED IN DECEMBER 2015
Ask any economist and they will tell you the most vibrant and successful economies are those based around manufacturing. Economies based on service industries just don't work. In order stop money from going around in circles within an economy and causing rampant inflation you need income from abroad and in order to have exports and earn income from outside the country you need goods to sell and the goods need to be made from indigenous raw materials to keep costs down and profits up. It's not, as the Americans say, rocket science. Manufacturing feeds off innovation and design. New ideas and new ways to package those ideas. The technical sciences and the creative industries are at the heart of this process; make a better mouse-trap then make it so cool everyone wants one. Simples!
As announced by the Crafts Council recently, the crafts sector (including crafts in scientific and technical manufacturing) earns £3.4billion per year for the UK and employs thousands of people. Micro businesses, like me, make up nearly 800million of that total and the little guys like us need training. So where do we train? Well, just down the road from me is the UK's finest arts college. Falmouth School of Art, now part of Falmouth University, has been at the forefront of arts education for decades. They even have a degree, BA(Hons), in Contemporary Crafts. Or do they? The Contemporary Crafts degree course admissions for next year have been suspended and the course cancelled on the university admissions website. The reason given for the cuts to this historic course? Crafts take up too much room on a cramped campus, require ongoing investment in equipment and apparently there has also been a nationwide reduction in applications to crafts-based courses. So, what will take the place of the Contemporary Crafts degree? According to the West Briton newspaper; a degree in Computer Gaming! (a service industry by another name as the product is now usually available only by download)
Many have reacted angrily and more than 3,000 people have signed an online petition in just a few days calling on course director Virginia Button and Vice-Chancellor & Chief -Executive Professor Anne Carlisle to reverse their decision. The petition states:
"This degree, with historic roots in pottery and ceramics, is vital to the Cornish economy and creative culture."
"Let's not lose something with such personal, regional and national importance."
"The links between ceramics and crafts at Falmouth School of Art and the wider economy cannot be underestimated with ex-graduates flourishing both [within the] county, country and internationally."
"This is a course which applauds creativity and talent and maintains the nation's skill bases."
"How can it be appropriate to close down one of the country's few excellent facilities? Again, a price has been placed on a course without considering the long-term future of the individuals and future generations. How disappointing!"
"The Contemporary Craft Course isn't just about learning and training in a skill; it is about pushing boundaries, discovering new processes, working with inspirational peers and lecturers and most of all a chance to explore who you are as a maker."
"Sometimes the right choice is not about money."
A spokesman for Falmouth University said the move was to maintain its position as the UK's top arts university. "The contemporary crafts course has a longstanding reputation and we are proud of the recognition many of our graduates have achieved but it is also the university's most costly and space-intensive subject area. We cannot maintain the course's space needs and intensely process-led curriculum without significant cross-subsidy from other subject areas – something we are not prepared to do."
Not prepared to risk a penny from another course or seek other means of funding, not even in principle, to preserve the heritage of craftsmanship education in this country. So unless you want to learn computing for the games industry it looks like you will have to go elsewhere to learn anything about traditional or contemporary craftsmanship or artisanal manufacturing, even though artisan goods are increasingly in demand worldwide by an audience that is tired of mass-produced, cheaply imported, "tat"!.
Workshops are expensive and computers are cheap - says it all doesn't it?