Ritva Koskennurmi-Sivonen
Back to the front page

Craft science and textile teacher education
– past and present

For the most part of this page, I quote the paper entitled Research at the Section of Textiles, Clothing and Craft Science at the University of Helsinki from 1999 by Marketta Luutonen, Ritva Koskennurmi-Sivonen, Jussi T. Koski, Anna-Mari Raunio, Kirsti Salo-Mattila, Pirita Seitamaa-Hakkarainen and Erja Syrjäläinen. The entire paper is available as a PDF file too. The end of the page is by myself and the photos were taken by Anna-Mari Raunio.


The roots of craft science are in the education of teachers of textiles, clothing and craft design. Education in craft began in 1886, when the Helsinki Craft School (Helsingin käsityökoulu), which had been founded five years earlier, created a new department, that of teacher education. Textiles, clothing and craft design teachers received a college-level education until 1975, when the institute became incorporated into the Section of Textiles, Clothing and Craft Design at the University of Helsinki.

Upon integration of the teacher education program into the University of Helsinki, a professorship was founded in pedagogical research of textile crafts. In 1982, a further professorship was established in textiles, clothing and craft design, with its teaching field defined as being comprised of designing and making-up processes of textile products. When founding the professorship of textiles, clothing and craft design, there were discussions about other names for this academic field, and most of all about the definition of the object of research for this new discipline. The possibility to concentrate, even in teacher education, on research questions arising from the subject content was particularly highlighted. The decision taken in Finland to establish a professorship in this field was internationally a precursor, since no comparable academic discipline or professorship exists elsewhere.

Craft science’s object of research

Research in craft science deals with the human being’s relationship with his/her surroundings and with the modeling of the living environment.
Different aspects of investigation include:
• designing and making-up processes of craft products
• material and immaterial products
• relationship between processes, tools, products, human beings, and culture
• human being as producer and experiencer of the material world

Products have been created through designing and making-up processes and their production method has influenced the result. Material products are, in general, concrete, tangible objects; whereas immaterial products can be sensations, experiences or learning. Processes and products both reflect and create culture. The essence of craft science research is that the phenomena that constitute the objects of research are related to human beings’—designers’, makers’, users’ or observers’—reality. Research in craft science can touch upon all of these dimensions, though it generally focuses on one of them.

Craft is seen as an interaction between an acting human being and the object of the action, the visual-aesthetic environment. The research object of craft science covers all different fields and forms of craft: the research can focus on the craftsperson, the designing and making-up processes of products, or the products themselves from a psychological, social, cultural economic or technological point of view. Craft can be a form of self-expression of its author and its result can be the expression of an artistic intention. Craft science’s paradigm is situated in the intersection of science, art and technology.

Figure 1. Craft science’s research objects, projects and related disciplines (Luutonen et al. 1999).

The multidisciplinary approach targets the theoretical and methodological development of craft science. The variety of studies in craft science need support from other sciences. The starting point is often situated in human sciences: the psychological, social, cultural-historical and socio-economic dimensions to human action. Some studies of craft science approach natural sciences and technology. A multidisciplinary theory may be based on the following disciplines: psychology, cognitive science, socio-psychology, aesthetics, philosophy, design research, communications research, media sciences (information and communication technologies), art history, ethnology, cultural anthropology, feminist research, sociology, economics, consumer economics, environmental sciences, work sciences, physiology, home technology, chemistry, physics, information technology and computer science.

Key dates in the education of teachers of textiles, clothing and craft design

1881 foundation of the Helsingin käsityökoulu (Helsinki Craft School)
1886 foundation of the Department of teacher education in the Helsinki Craft School
1933 name-change to Helsingin käsityöopisto (Helsinki Craft Institute)
1949 name-change to Helsingin käsityönopettajaopisto (Helsinki Institute for Craft Teacher Education)
1959 completion of the present building for the institute at Helsinginkatu 34
1975 foundation of the craft teacher study program at the University of Helsinki
1975 foundation of an assistant professorship in pedagogical research of craft
1979 a degree program leading to a Master’s degree in education became available
1982 foundation of a professorship in textiles, clothing and craft design
1983 first students graduated with a Master’s degrees in education
1984 first Licentiate thesis in textiles, clothing and craft design was published
1992 field name-change from Textiles, Clothing and Craft Design to Craft Science
1994 first doctoral thesis in craft science was published
1998 foundation of the Department of Home Economics and Craft Science
2001 120th anniversary of craft education in Helsinki
2002 (forthcoming in the autumn) new premises at Siltavuorenpenkere 10

The 120th anniversary of craft education in Helsinki, January 2001

On Wednesday, January 17th 2001, we celebrated the 120th anniversary of our institute, which began as a craft school and became the Section of Craft Science and Textile Teacher Education at the University of Helsinki. We put up a small exhibition of students’ recent creation, historical embroidered items, and research work carried out in craft science and education related to craft.

Contemporary embroidery: thread and fabric ”paintings”

Historical embroidery. A stationary case embroidered at the Helsinki Craft School for the World Exhibition of Paris in 1900. The Collection of Textiles, Clothing and Craft Design, University of Helsinki.

The exhibition was open for public, but special guests were invited for a reception in the afternoon of the anniversary. Among the guests were the Mayor of Helsinki Eva-Riitta Siitonen, decision makers from the faculty and university, people who have worked with us in the department and outside of it in places important to us, such as schools.

Professor Leena Kaukinen and Jenni Ruusunen,the chairperson of the student organization welcomed the guests.


Professor emerita Pirkko Anttila, the grand lady of craft science and its first nominated professor addressing the audience in front of the Empress’s Screen (in the show case).

The Empress’s Screen, consisting of five embroidered panels, was the key attraction of the anniversary exhibition. This treasure from the past of Helsinki Craft School and the history of this country was a loan from the National Museum of Finland. The screen was a gift to the Empress of Russia, born Princess Dagmar of Denmark, when the Emperor and Empress visited Finland in 1885. Although it is usually hidden in the storeroom of the museum, the screen and its skillful embroidery has become familiar to us from the research and beautiful publication of Dr. Kirsti Salo-Mattila, lecturer at the department.



Ritva Koskennurmi-Sivonen
Back to the front page