I’m wearing a serviceable, but fashionable pair of black boots. They’re comfortable, but that’s not my primary reason for buying them. I like the way they look. Before they came to be at the end of my legs they resided in a shop. I liked the way the shop looked, so I went in and took a look around. Inside the shop were hundreds upon hundreds of attractive items, all waiting for someone like me to like the way they look and choose them.
Before you think I’ve been at the cooking sherry, I have a point: we have all, at one point or another, bought something we ‘like the look of’. We take for granted that these things are readily available to us and often without a thought for why we like it or the origins of that item.
And why should we? After all, there are far more pressing matters in our lives to consider. If we gave every object that crossed our paths even the most cursory bit of analysis we’d never get anything done and there aren’t enough hours in the day as it is.
As part of my job, I have plenty of cause to give gentle reminders to remember the origins of our ‘things’. Why? Because studying art and design is considered to be right at the very bottom of subjects worth concentrating on. Investment in equipment and materials is so low in schools as to be almost non-existent and it’s considered a ‘nice hobby’ rather than a career direction. There is a widespread belief that studying art and design at university will make you unemployable and destined for a lifetime being the stereotypical impoverished artist. Students are being guided away from these subjects simply because we rarely, if ever, stop to think about beginnings.
When I look at my boots, I see a student who carried around a folder full of fashion sketches at school. When I notice stunning shop fronts, I’m seeing careers in design that started with a GCSE. By discouraging arts participation and stunting investment in education we’ll see our proud track record of UK educated artists and designers dwindle and incredible talents going unrealised. Let’s change this. Now.