Second-year MA Student Amber Robinson describes her studies on the MA Traditional Arts Programme at The Prince’s School.
Having completed a degree in Fine Art which was predominantly conceptual, I wanted to learn more about the history and techniques of traditional craft skills. I’d developed an interest in the geometry of Islamic pattern and found The Prince’s School of Traditional Arts during my research on the subject. What I found good about the School was the openness they had with visitors and the ethos. I took part in a couple of the weekend Open Programme workshops on geometry and decided that this was the best place for me to develop professionally as an artist.
With the generous support of grants from NADFAS, I have been able to enrol on the full-time M.A. in Traditional Arts programme at The Prince’s School. It’s been a great decision as I have had the privilege of learning many different skills which would otherwise be unavailable to me.
There are two main interests which have developed during my study, the first being colour. It was the participation in a class with Dr David Cranswick that really established my love for colour.
We learnt how to make our own pigments and paints from the earth and other organic materials. For me this was really my greatest insight into how important it is to use materials that are not only of high quality but by using these materials and making them from scratch means that as an artist I have a deep connection and thorough understanding of where my work has come from and how it has been made.
Alongside learning how to make materials, I learnt how to use tools for painting, stained glass, ceramics and other crafts. These techniques have been especially helpful in the development of my second year project. The module on Islimi – the Turkish name for spiralling and vegetal motifs – enabled me to understand the principles behind some biomorphic design. It is the second main aspect of the course that I am particularly interested in pursuing.
Using the skills acquired in geometry, these principles of design can be translated onto various items such as textiles and ceramics as well as miniature painting.
With a deep interest in flowers and birds, I am developing a series of patterns and motifs to decorate ceramics and textiles. It is the painting skills that I have gained doing courses such as Indian Miniature Painting and painting for stained glass that have really influenced the way I work, using the techniques discovered there and transferring them into another medium. The one key component of all of the patterns and motifs that I am developing is their reliance on geometry in the initial design stage.
A sound knowledge of geometry enables the practitioner to understand the concepts of good design throughout all artistic endeavours. It aids with the balance of composition, as well as giving an understanding to the underlying framework of Islimi and biomorphic patterns.
It has been a privilege to have been taught by Paul Marchant, a leading authority on geometry, and to partake in his classes both at The School and on a field trip he led to Chartres. By learning the principles of geometry through The School, I have been able to understand how to harmoniously construct a design, understand balance and create beauty.
The sources of inspiration for my current work come from the arabesque decoration in Islamic art such as the scroll work seen on Persian architecture and in the techniques found in Miniature Paintings. I am also inspired by the blue and black Raqqa ceramics of Syria, the stylised vegetal motifs and the colour.
I have been able to undertake a course that has given me a wealth of skills and learning experiences that I will continue to utilise throughout my career as an artist and I am sincerely grateful to partake in a course that would otherwise not be available to me.
If you are interested in the work of The Prince’s School of Traditional Arts, please visit www.psta.org.uk.