The Prince’s Foundation School of Traditional Arts

The Prince's Foundation

A look at the purpose and programmes of The Prince’s Foundation School of Traditional Arts.

Contemporary arts through living traditions
The Prince's Foundation School of Traditional Arts is part of a group of charities which reflect The Prince of Wales's profound interest in some of the most relevant and pressing challenges facing the world we live in today. Tradition is central to our identity as an institution. The inspirational journey of the School is a continuous, cyclical evolution, based on the understanding of Tradition as the path of continual renewal. The School's understanding of this concept of Tradition allows us to return to the principal roots of an idea, or to the archetypal origin of a form, to realise the underlying timeless principles they express. This allows it always to be relevant in the contemporary context.

"Through my school for the traditional arts, I have tried to do what I can to continue the living traditions of the world's sacred and traditional art forms.

It is all too easily forgotten how crucial traditions are in handing on the immense richness of human knowledge, wisdom and skill, and giving them new life and new application.

I hope that The School's practical teaching and outreach programmes will enable the next generation to bring their inheritance to life."

– The Prince of Wales

The School of Traditional Arts has, for a number of years now, pioneered practical post-graduate degrees, at Masters and Doctoral level, in the traditional arts of the great civilisations of the world. The School emphasises the importance of integrating the theoretical study of the traditional arts with their practical application. One of the School's main objectives is to encourage an awareness of the holistic nature of the traditional artist, whose inspiration derives from the highest sources and whose skill and dedication creates masterpieces which we can all recognise as part of our world heritage.

By learning and practising traditional arts of living skills that can be applied to contemporary design, students at The Prince's School create beautiful objects - ceramic tiles and bowls; stained glass and wood marquetry; oil paintings, icons, miniatures and frescoes; carving, furniture and buildings.

Whatever the course of study, education at The School is traditional, in that it follows the master-apprentice model.

Teachers are knowledgeable and highly skilled, bringing profound theoretical and practical understanding to their teaching. A good teacher is concerned with soul, mind and body, encouraging the student to find out what is within.

The kind of originality nurtured and respected at the Prince's School goes beyond focusing on producing exceptional artwork by particular individuals.

Here, originality means 'from the origin', returning to first principles as well as cultural and artistic roots, nurturing them and bringing forth new shoots.

It is this understanding of originality which enables the students at the School to create contemporary arts through living traditions.

The MA Programme
By learning and practising traditional arts as living skills that can be applied in contemporary design, students at the Prince’s School create beautiful objects – ceramic tiles and bowls; stained glass and wood marquetry; oil paintings, icons, miniatures and frescoes; carving, furniture and buildings. There is beauty in the students’ steady, disciplined practice of crafts and skills that is deeply-rooted in the inspirational principles common to all traditional cultures. 
Geometry sits at the heart of artistic traditions from around the world. The Prince's School recognises geometry as the link between all the sacred and traditional arts, and its importance is emphasised throughout the School's curriculum and teaching. Geometry is taught as a creative practice that brings together the wisdom of the head with the practical skill of the hands and the compassion of the heart.

Students learn geometry, the hierarchy of mathematical spatial expression, from first principles in the traditional manner, using a hand-held pair of compasses, a straight edge, and later, a square or set square.

Geometry is taught at The Prince’s School by tutors who have mastered the knowledge, skill and understanding of geometry as a sacred art and science. Their teaching combines practical demonstrations, visual displays and lectures.

The School teaches geometry as a creative practice that brings together the wisdom of the head with the practical skill of the hands and the compassion of the heart.

Geometry is a rigorous discipline that can lead to self-development and, through systematic study, to achievement of originality which underlies all the traditional arts.

Traditional painting methods and materials
Students learn the techniques of some of the 14th-17th century's master painters - from grinding and preparing pigments to formulating a range of traditional recipes essential to egg tempera and oil painting. The techniques of preparing a gesso panel and gilding are also taught.

As well as gaining a thorough grounding in traditional techniques and the principles underlying them, students will also explore the alchemical symbolism involved in the preparations.

Icon painting
This course covers the essentials of egg tempera painting, especially as used in traditional Orthodox sacred icons. The course begins with discussions about elements essential to any sacred art.
Persian Miniature Painting
This course opens with a brief overview of the different schools and styles of miniature painting and manuscript illustration, focusing mainly on the Persian tradition. It goes on to explore the themes, colour symbolism and patronage within the tradition. Design layout composition and spatial relationship, are also considered.
Indian Miniature Painting
Students are introduced to the practice of Indian miniature painting through a series of demonstrations and slide lectures. The technique is illustrated step-by-step so that each aspect of the craft, from the initial preparation of colours to the final detailed painting, is revealed. The experience enables students to understand both the practical and philosophical wisdom that lies within this ancient tradition.
Islimi, sometimes referred to as “arabesque,” are biomorphic forms based on geometric principles. 

Through careful observation, direction and practice, students learn the value of freehand drawing and disciplined design

Stained glass
Students learn to experiment with all aspects of design and manufacture, including the production of 'the cut line' of a chosen image, selecting colours, cutting the glass, and then leading and soldering the glass together.
Students learn the process of veneering, with a focus on parquetry and inlay. By way of introduction, the history, methods and materials of wood inlay, and its application in interiors and furniture, are presented.
Students learn design and practical painting skills to produce beautifully decorated ceramic plates, and geometric tiles.
Study trips
Study trips provide invaluable, up-close and memorable experiences that give enormous inspiration to the students’ own work. 

There are visits, meetings, seminars and lectures on site.

For many students the study trips are the first opportunity to meet living masters of some of the world’s most valuable traditional arts.

Being with craftsmen and women in their own location, attentively observing them working, drawing and taking notes, all help to confirm and enrich students’ understanding of how relationships between theory and practice are active; of how traditional arts are integral to their entire context – social and economic, spiritual, architectural and environmental.

The Open Programme
The Open Programme at The School of Traditional Arts is accessible to anyone who is interested in learning more about the traditional arts and wants to practise them. The structure of the Open Programme reflects the curriculum of our masters degree course in its core modules. These are: Geometry, Painting, Decorative Ornamentation, Applied Arts and Calligraphy.

The courses are taught by The School’s tutors and by masters from the UK and abroad.

The modules span Eastern and Western traditional arts, covering geometric patterns and structures; manuscript illumination; gilding; Persian or Indian miniature painting; calligraphy; ceramics; stained glass; mosaics; Chinese brush painting – and many others.

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