A long time ago, I saw the exhibition Only Make-Believe:Ways of Playing at Compton Verney. Curated by Marina Warner, her essay in the catalogue turned me on to Johan Huizinga's Homo Ludens, D.W Winnicott and other historians and thinkers who were concerned with the notion of play/reality, environment/object relations and so on. I was also re-introduced to the ideas of radical educationalist and Kindergarten originator Friedrich Froebel.
Gifts and Occupations are teaching tools devised by Froebel. A series of playthings, Gifts begin with a set of coloured balls covered in knitted fabric, and grow in complexity thereafter - wooden spheres and cubes, beads and grids, coloured paper shapes etc. These are progressively sequenced towards a gradual shift from the concrete idea of solid forms to the abstract idea of "spatial patterns." The objects are introduced to the child and relate in material, weight, shape to what has gone before and what will come after. The incremental stages allow for understanding of forms but also investigative imaginative play and self directed activity.
Working in tandem alongside these Gifts he developed the idea of Occupations, graded similarly according to difficulty and required dexterity, but focusing on a skill. This included paper folding and cutting, weaving, wood carving etc.
Image from old but nice article here
More about kindergarten from collector Norman Brosterman and the exhibition he co-curated at the IFF
The thing that I find most interesting with this kind of approach to creating is the limits and conditions in which the work is produced. A system, a kit of parts, to play in and with. Also, the parallels drawn between making an 'image' and making an 'object', moving from flatness to form.
Posted by Marie O'Connor at 20.9.10