‘Each day begins with some skipping.’ It would be a breach of artistic licence to claim that this is necessarily true for Cecilie Telle herself; however, as she describes a day in the life of a child at a Steiner school, it’s hard to imagine why this relatively esoteric education system is not more widespread. Having taught craft in Steiner schools for some time – today she trains Steiner teachers – and put her own children through the system, Telle is well placed to explain what exactly happens inside some of the most progressive classrooms in the land.
Based on the Austrian academic Rudolf Steiner’s founding principals, the first Steiner school opened in 1919. At the heart of Steiner’s pedagogical theory was the idea that children need to be nurtured individually with equal and unhurried attention paid to their physical, emotional, intellectual, cultural and spiritual needs. Through starting a year later than standard schools, staying with one teacher throughout, and providing a creative and custom learning environment, children have the opportunity to find joy in learning as well as the ability to work and think independently.
Incidentally, Telle has a rather holistic or ‘Steiner-esque’ approach to life and work; her colourful felted wool bags and accessories – which often resemble a seed pod, cocoon or pregnant belly almost serve as the perfect visual metaphor for her enviably balanced approach to the world.
Where people may have heard of Steiner schools, they generally don’t know what a Steiner education actually entails, often assuming it to be an offshoot of Montessori education or some kind of hippy excuse for ‘real school’. And yet, everything that Steiner schools prioritise chime absolutely with what we read in the papers as so essential to a good lifestyle – exercise, a real relationship with each other and the physical world: all things that commuters dream of, alongside a curriculum covering all of the formal educational requirements.
If Telle and her family is anything to go by, the effects of a Steiner education are anything but a lax and unengaged individual. Inside their light and airy home – a converted handbag factory – is a kind of creative oasis of thought and production. One corner is taken up by what I at first mistake to be a priceless paper sculpture by Issey Miyake: it is in fact Telle’s 16 year-old daughter’s half-finished homework – formally educated at a Steiner school, she is now a student at the prestigious Brit school. And just a few steps away is Telle’s studio, like a shrine to all things colourful, round and felted. It is easy to see that Telle’s process is the key to all of the ponchos, scarves, gloves, hats, neck warmers and tea cosies she produces.
After knitting each piece from 100% British wool using a domestic machine, there is then the innovative but nerve-wracking process of felting them – via the washing machine.... To read the full article click on the Selvedge Articles icon below from issue 67.