Skills in the Making

Working across the curriculum

Rob Kesseler
by Rob Kesseler


Contemporary craft makers are increasingly working across disciplines to investigate the natural and scientific world or to address contemporary issues and ideas. Using these craft makers as case studies creative links can be made between art and science, english, maths, citizenship, drama, dance, biology and history amongst other subject areas.

For example, Rob Kesseler manipulates images of plants derived from electron microscopy to present the complexity and beauty of the natural world. Helen Carnac's work focuses on how making can inform our approaches to the world, our philosophy and ideology. Caroline Broadhead collaborates with dancers and choreographers to produce one-off live performances and installations.

Craft and science

Rob Kesseler: art and science

Rob Kesseler is Professor of Ceramic Art and Design at Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design and is far from being a conventional potter, often working with photography and digital images rather than clay. His work bridges the art-science divide and he calls himself an artist, explaining that ‘I work in the area where craft, art and design overlap'. The theme that links Kesseler's wide-ranging body of work is his overwhelming fascination with plant material and the natural world. Rob Kesseler and Wolfgang Stuppy reveal the strange and ingenious methods plants use to disperse their seeds and ensure their survival.

Rob Kesseler's work focuses on images of plants and their structure; sometimes they are applied to ceramic or textiles, or stand alone. Explorations of the structure of seeds or pollen grains, the images are based on scientific microscopic black and white digital photographs to which he adds computer generated heightened colour to create pieces that will draw in the viewers in the same way as "a bee is drawn to the colours of a flower." The images are manipulated to reveal what was previously invisible, resulting in what Kesseler calls "assisted reality".

Science: Specialist websites

Natural History Museum.

TED contains talks from leaders in the field of technology, science and design.

Exploratorium: science website with a section for artists, information about microscopic imaging and much more.

Cytographics: cells stills gallery.

Howard Hughes Medical Institute: site with useful science education pointers.

MicroscopyU: images of cells and information on digital imaging.

MolecularMovies: directory of cell and molecular animations.

TED lecture on pollen.

Sci/Craft activities and case studies Artists Rachel Wingfield and Mathias Gmachl are Loop.pH. Influenced by science and in particular plants and plant movement, their works are part textile, part sculpture and part architecture. Their ambition is to make work that reacts to its environment in the way that plants do. Anna Dumitriu's collaborative practice utilises textiles to explore microbiology, alongside performance, digital art, installation and philosophy. Citizenship and textiles at KS4 addressed through the exhibition Fashion Footprints: Sustainable Approaches at the Centre for Contemporary Art in the Natural World. Building opportunities for extended and cross curricular learning with two secondary schools at the National Glass Centre, Sunderland.

Sci/ Craft Books


Adams, H.C (1999) Karl Blossfeldt. Prestel, Munich

Aldersly Williams, H (2003) Zoomorphic: New Animal Architecture. Lawerence King

Frankel, F (2002) Envisioning Science. The Design and Craft of the Science Image. MIT Press

Gamwell, L (2002) Exploring the invisible, Art, Science and the Spiritual. Princetown University Press

Haeckel, E. (1904) Art Forms in Nature. Reprinted 1998, Prestel, Munich

Jenny, H (2001) Cymatics: A Study of Wave Phenomena and Vibration. Macromedia

Kemp, M (2000) Visualisations, the nature Book of Art and Science. Oxford University Press

Moore, A and Garibaldi, C (2003) Flower Power: The Meaning of Flowers in Art. Philip Wilson

Tomasi, L and Hirschauer, G (2002) The Flowering of Florence. National Gallery of Art, Washington

Mabberly, D (2000) Arthur Harry Church: The Anatomy of Flowers. Merrell

Stafford, B.M (1994) Artful Science, Enlightenment, Entertainment and the Eclipse of the Visual Image. MIT Press


Martin, G and Laoec, R (2002) Macrophotography. Abrahams

Thomas, A (1997) The Beauty of Another Order: Photography in Science. Yale University Press


Ball, P(2009) Shapes: Natures patterns: a tapestry in three parts. Oxford University Press

Ball, P(2009) Branches: Natures patterns: a tapestry in three parts. Oxford University Press

Ball, P (2009) Flow: Natures patterns: a tapestry in three parts. Oxford University Press


Quinn, Anthony (2007), The Ceramic Design Course. London: Thames & Hudson

Digital manipulation

Weibman, E and Lourekas, P Visual Quickstart Guide: Photoshop CS4

The work of Rob Kesseler

Kesseler, R (2001) Pollinate Grizedale Arts and the Wordsworth Trust

Kesseler, R and Harley, M (2009) Pollen, the hidden sexuality of Flowers. Papadakis

Kesseler, R and Stuppy, W (2009) Seeds, time capsules of life. Papadakis

Stuppy, W and Kesseler, R (2008) Friut, edible, incredible and inedible. Papadakis

Stuppy, W, Kesseler, R and Harley M (2009) The bizarre and incredible world of plants. Papadakis

Craft and philosophy

Helen Carnac: thinking through making

Helen Carnac works as lecturer, writer, curator, conference organizer and teacher, but her primary interest is her work as a craftsperson. Although she originally trained as a silversmith, Carnac defines herself as a maker. She co-curated the Craftspace Touring exhibition "Taking Time: Craft and the Slow Revolution" (2009) which takes as its starting point the issues emerging from the Slow Movement, which developed as a response to our increasingly fast lifestyles and our unsustainable consumer culture. Slowness is also associated with craft skills: skill which is acquired over time that cannot be rushed and is intuitively learned.

Many makers today are developing critical positions in response to consumer culture, questioning modes of production through the development of new processes, looking at issues of stewardship and sustainability, as well as exploring collective making and the reworking of everyday objects.


THINK TANK is a group of 9 leading thinkers, writers, theorists, curators and makers representing a broad range of European countries. All participants are engaged with craft and design, through writing, teaching and lecturing and include, from the UK, Tanya Harrod, writer and theorist and Edmund De Waal, ceramicist and writer.

The Journal of Modern Craft addresses all forms of making that self-consciously set themselves apart from mass production, whether in the making of designed objects, artworks, buildings, or other artefacts.

Innovative Craft: working with artists, makers, curators and other arts organisations to research and develop a programme of exhibitions, talks and events and occasionally sponsor commissions which explore new ways of connecting people and objects and different ways of interpreting and evaluating the impact of that in the 21st century.

Craft and performance

Caroline Broadhead: craft and performance

Caroline Broadhead has developed a multi-disciplinary practice. She works across the fields of the fine and applied arts and regularly collaborates with choreographers producing installations for live performance. She was awarded the Jerwood Prize for Applied Arts in 1997 and was winner of the Textiles International Open in 2004. Her work is included in numerous public collections internationally. She is Course Director of Jewellery at Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design.

Many makers today collaborate in an inter-disciplinary way with fine artists, dancers, choreographers, filmmakers, branding consultants and architects. This approach helps to blur the boundaries between traditional craft, fine art, installation, live performance and other disciplines both within and outside the creative industries. The aim is often to provide an ‘experience' rather than a finished outcome or object. Many of these makers explore the body and our presence within a particular environment, or histories and a sense of place.