Creativity isn’t just for artists. Craft isn’t just for artisans.

Handmade Owl

The growing loss of art-based subjects in our schools is a common cause of exasperation here at F&E. We know we’re not alone. However, it’s less common that we hear a story that particularly focuses on craft as a lost creative skill.

This story from the BBC titled, Surgery students 'losing dexterity to stitch patients’ resonated with us, as a company whose foundation was built on traditional craft skills. Bolstering our long-held belief in the value of the arts and that creativity is not just for artists.

Owl. The shape was formed using foam and stuffing. Fabric was sewn around the basic shape to “sculpt” the final design.

The article discusses a generation of highly intelligent students, who are experiencing a lack of manual dexterity. In the past young people developed these skills by handling and understanding different materials and tools. Today there seems to be a loss in children and young adults developing physical skills. A trend identified by Roger Kneebone, professor of surgical education at Imperial College. He comments: “Young people have so little experience of craft skills that they struggle with anything practical.”

This article really highlighted how the loss of craft (not only in schools, but at home too) is having a tangible effect on a generation of young adults. A group of young people who’ve grown up knowing only the digital world. Technology has overtaken the importance of experimenting with real, physical materials.

The Art of Craft

Toon Disney Idents featuring cardboard sets with hand-stitched detailing.

Thinking about some of the handmade characters and sets we create here at F&E, we realised these fundamental skills of understanding our tools and materials are completely taken for granted. Craft skills which have been ingrained from childhood are no longer given staples of a journey into adulthood. In a world of smartphones, disposable fashion, throwaway commodities and emphasis on academics over arts... we are losing skills we never realised were learnt.

At F&E, our craft has been shaped by years of experience and practical experience. How we combine fabrics. Understanding the tough rigid leathers and how they might connect to elastics without puckering. Interpreting how the grain of paper influences the ways materials bend, bond, break and tear. The instinctive knowledge which informs our decision to glue, cement, nail or sew. Having the dexterity to sew small or intricate creations or visualizing the way flat shapes will translate into three-dimensional objects, is something we take for granted. It’s easy to understand how a loss of these instinctive skills would be relatable to the work of a surgeon.

Understanding materials, creativity combined with our human dexterity is what keeps us unique and separated from a future of complete automation. Having manual dexterity and being able to think creatively aren’t exclusively skills for the creative industries. There are surgeons, dentists, plumbers, engineers, carpenters, the list is endless, that make up a huge part of our economy.

Still taken from a hand-made promo for Channel 4

All of these jobs rely upon hands-on work and knowledge of materials. Creativity and dexterity need to be encouraged and nurtured as part of our educational experience. The future isn’t a shiny flat screen. It’s round and star-shaped. Rough and smooth. Bendy and strong. It’s academic and creative. In a future we will be sharing with robots, surely the significance of this synergy will become our ultimate value as human beings?