Review by Ged Gast, Past president, NSEAD
Published by Black Dog Publishing Ltd
Two key principles set this book in a different class to many others offering ‘how to’ guidance. Firstly, the premise of this publication is to increase the opportunities for children with making through fostering their interest in creative activity. It does this through the ‘New Manifesto for Making’, which on the first page, engages young people and sets out the values and principles of making. A missing or undervalued component in schools and the lives of many young people today. Secondly, this is a book offering, not just an exclusive focus on sculpture, form and the visual-tactile qualities of a surface, but a celebration of thinking and constructing in three-dimensions. This promotes interest, motivation and an eagerness to engage directly in the physicality of making, inspired by the characteristics of the materials and creative processes explored.
The layout and amount of written and visual information provided about materials and techniques for each project is excellent and enough to foster a sense of wonder and willingness to encourage young people to get making. At the very least, it will give them sufficient confidence to begin a journey of discovery. This written guidance is balanced with just the right amount of visual information using carefully cropped images. These photographs explain the key characteristics of specific materials, processes and techniques. They promote investigation and experimentation, explaining ‘how to’ or suggesting ways you might organise your materials and work, without imposing a particular expectation for an outcome.
The writing and description expertly manages to tread the very difficult line between a voice for adults and young people of different ages and reading ability, helpfully supported by the visuals. It is pragmatic in this respect and speaks clearly to parents, educational professionals and young people using clear, well-targeted statements. Relevant health and safety information is clearly stated within the Facilitator’s Notes and guidance tips are set out so that young people can approach activities well-informed. Where relevant, the notes reference more detailed health and safety information or guidance for supervising adults, which is set out engagingly in the ‘Materials, Tools, Techniques’ section.
This book does not promote a step by step approach towards the replication of a specific outcome, but provides guidance steps in an Activity section within each project that emphasises the principle of experimentation and investigation for each stage of the making process. For this reason, I think it should appeal particularly to boys, as well as to girls and promotes a physical and iterative approach exactly in tune with the best ways to engage younger people in sculpture and creative making.
I sincerely hope this book will find its way into the resource collection of every primary and infant school in the UK. It will also support non-specialist 3D teachers in secondary schools who need guidance and confidence building suggestions for suitable activities and how best to teach these. Likewise, this is a ‘must buy’ for all enlightened parents of young children who wish to ensure their children gain the necessary creative, physical and making experiences so undervalued and lacking in too many of our schools at the present time. They will also find the guidance on purchasing materials, the equipment needed for activities and the safety guidance immensely helpful.
This is a very timely publication, meeting the concerns of parents who are disappointed by the reduced emphasis or devaluing of physical making that presently exists within the English education curriculum. This book should help to address this lack of opportunity for the development of ‘making’ skills and creative experience by promoting their importance and value. It will develop and foster an understanding of three-dimensional space and the properties of materials, alongside personal characteristics of confidence with tools, materials and the self-esteem gained through successful creative activity.
Paula may be known to some as co-founder of AccessArt, or from another well-targeted publication entitled Drawing Projects for Children.
Review by Ged Gast, Past-president NSEAD
15 Sep 2016