Books have been a substantial part of my life, right from early days when my Scottish grandmother gave me a copy of Quentin Durward for my second birthday (a somewhat premature gift, even for someone as precocious as me!). The link with education was made at Christmas when I was five: a marvellous present from my father of the complete set of Arthur Mee's Children's Encyclopaedia.
Books have always taught me so much - if I wanted to know anything, I always went to a book or several in a library. And for me, the Penguin imprint was a treasure trove; my greatest education at university really being through the books I discovered and read as well as those prescribed. Those fantastic birds were on my shelves in flocks: Pelicans and Peregrines (does anyone remember them?)
and of course the ubiquitous Penguin itself. Indeed such was the value that we placed on them that in the early days of our marriage when we were saving in order to buy a house, before I spent any money on anything I would ask: how many Penguins could I buy with the same money, is it worth it, and would I rather have those Penguins instead?
My career by then was in publishing - as well as education. I had started as a teacher, but soon moved to educational publishing. The fundamental worth of books and education are firmly intertwined for me.
Some things have changed, of course. Now I go to the Internet rather than having shelves groaning with reference books as I did when I was in children's non-fiction publishing. I download fiction onto my Kindle, and since the removal of the Net Book Agreement, the cost of books has plummeted (although when I was in publishing I was entitled to staff discounts which made books a third cheaper than the retail price). But one aspect has not changed, or rather during this era of austerity, coupled with my no longer receiving a salary, I have resumed my previous practice of evaluation by - not paperback any more, but by art book.
This is particularly true in the case of education: classes and other learning environments. In planning a winter of printmaking experimentation, I have been reviewing my development, experience, and my teachers. I have been extremely fortunate to have encountered two exceptional teachers of printmaking: Holly Drewett, especially, because I was lucky enough first to encounter her when I was starting, and secondly because she is a gifted, enthusiastic, and enabling teacher and widely experienced printmaker.
The second was Laura Boswell, who is methodical, enthusiastic, clear, thorough, and greatly experienced in the field of Japanese woodblock printmaking. Both of them also make beautiful work, and my encounters with each of them was far too short for my liking.
Other printmakers may have made lovely work, but as teachers have ranged from adequate to certainly not worth the money, which would much better have gone to however many art books. I think we should praise those who are brilliant teachers, because that is a skill which is generally undervalued, I find. After all, I wholly agree with the saying I encountered when I was working with a publishing house in Zimbabwe: the death of a good teacher is like burning a library.
Beads with large holes
4 minutes ago