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MA in Traditional Arts

Our MA is a full-time, two-year, taught course. Students acquire skills, techniques and critical understanding in a range of traditional arts and crafts alongside associated philosophies.

Why study for a Masters in the Traditional Arts?

  • We are the only postgraduate school offering a Masters in the traditional arts
  • Opportunities to work with professional practitioners in the traditional arts
  • Small groups; good student:teacher ratio and close, supportive community
  • Teachers and students from varied backgrounds and from all over the world
  • Each MA student has their own work space in our open-plan studio
  • Learning is varied with good technical facilities and support

Admission Requirements


Applicants for our MA Degree are expected to have successfully completed a recognised, undergraduate university or college degree. Additional, relevant experience is also taken into account. Students who completed degrees before the issue of transcripts will be asked to include a CV.

Applicants who are not graduates will be expected to show they have relevant experience as practising artists, providing an additional, second reference and CV as evidence.


All courses are in English. Applicants must satisfy the specific English language requirements for entry onto the course

Applicants whose first language is not English must provide evidence that they have taken a UKVI recognised secure IELTS test achieving a minimum overall band of 6.0, with individual scores of not less than 5.5 in Listening, Speaking, Reading and Writing.

However if they have studied for a degree in the UK, an IELTS will not be necessary but evidence of the degree will need to be provided. If students have studied for a degree in a country whose first language is English they will not have to take an IELTS but will have to provide a UK NARIC statement of comparability that their degree is comparable to a UK qualification.


Applicants will need to complete and send all of the following

  • An application form
  • Payment of £30, once they have completed the application form
  • A reference form – this form can be sent directly to the referee who can then complete it and send it separately to the School
  • A portfolio of their artwork. The portfolio must be sent electronically in a compressed file or via a sharing service, such as Dropbox.


Applicants who wish to cancel the place we offer them, are advised to complete and send this form.


Applicants who wish to appeal or complain about our admission process should read through our Admissions Policy

Course Structure

Part 1: 120 credits

In the first year students take five modules:

Traditional Painting Techniques (30 credits)

Traditional Methods and Materials

This course introduces students to the techniques used by some of the master painters from the 14th-17th centuries such as grinding and preparing pigments and formulating a range of traditional recipes essential to egg tempera and oil painting. Students also learn how to gild on gesso and paper, and about colour theory.

The tutor’s demonstrations show how meticulous preparation was fundamental to the great masters.

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, before students chose their own subject to draw – figurative, geometric or otherwise. They transfer their drawing to a pre-prepared gesso panel. Over the rest of the course the tutor introduces and demonstrates each stage of the icon-painting process to the group and assists students individually.

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.

A series of practical demonstrations including pigment preparation and brush technique guide students as they use traditional methods and materials to complete their own miniature painting.

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.

Architectural Crafts (30 credits)

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, then leading and soldering the glass together.

Each student is expected to produce one or two panels depicting geometric, classical or biomorphic designs.

Wood parquetry

This course develops students’ understanding of the process of veneering and how to implement it with a focus on parquetry and inlay.

The history, methods and materials of wood inlay are introduced, and its application in interiors and furniture presented, before exploring the variety of wood veneers available today.

Demonstrations and one-to-one teaching sessions take students through the three stages of designing, making and finishing their own inlay project.

Study trip

A residential study trip (usually for a week) is arranged for first year MA students, as part of the Architectural Crafts module. This study trip gives students a more profound experience of traditional arts in their historical context.

Students often find the study trip inspires the individual assignment work they do in Part 2.

Ceramic Craft, Letter-forms and Islimi (30 credits)


The classes are exercises in colour and ornamentation, mainly in the Islamic tradition. Students are shown visual material in books to choose an image to draw and paint. Guided by the tutor, they draw and paint straight from a chosen examples. Demonstrations show how the biomorphic forms (islimi or arabesque) are based on geometric principles. Through careful observation, direction and practice, students learn the value of freehand drawing skills and produce a finished piece of islimi work.

Ceramic plates

The plate painting course has both a design component and a practical aspect.

Design analytical skills are taught studying examples of various traditional ceramics. These are then used as a basis for informing design choices, followed by painting.

Students learn a basic understanding of bisque-ware ceramics, and how to use underglaze techniques and kiln use.

By the end of the course students produce test samples of tile-ware and an underglaze painted plate.

Ceramic tiles

This course explores how geometry can be translated into physical form through the use of template and tessellation. Through demonstrations students learn how results can be scaled to fit specific dimensions. The possibilities within primary grid structures and how these can be used to express more complex geometric patterns are surveyed. Final designs are used to make glazed clay tiles that can be assembled into various compositions.


The aim of this course is to introduce students to the skills of traditional carving in plaster and wood, using traditional tools. The course begins with an introductory presentation on the history, methods and materials of carving and its application as surface decoration within a range of architectural settings and across different world traditions from Europe to Morocco and Southeast Asia. This is followed by an introduction in the use of traditional tools. A relief design is then selected, and the students are guided through the process of transferring their design to the medium, carving the work and then producing a finished piece of carved work.

Traditional and Islamic Geometry (20 credits)


Geometry forms the backbone of our curriculum and we introduce students to the practice, discipline and meaning of geometry, as fundamental to all the traditional arts.

By learning practical geometry from first principles in the traditional manner using a hand-held pair of compasses, a straight edge, and later, a square or set square, students discover how geometry reflects the natural order and its inherent beauty.

Geometry of structure and space

This course explores space, one of the five conditions of existence in the material world (the other four being time, form, number and substance).

Space is a subject studied in its own right because the art of defining space is fundamental to all arts.

Our students learn the fundamentals of dimension, from point to line, line to plane, plane to solid (all as structure).

Students learn to compare ancient findings, philosophical definitions and discoveries in modern atomic physics.

Contextual Studies (10 credits)


This theoretical course underpins all the practical modules of the Masters programme. Its series of readings, seminar discussions and presentations develop students’ understanding of the many forms that symbolism and meanings can take in traditional arts.

Seminars focus on how different arts so diversely express and exhibit principles that are universally shared by the world’s great traditions, and on how they all find their reflection in the order of nature. Opportunities for discussion and investigation during the seminars, and the written work resulting from them, provide essential philosophical support for the craft-based courses the students undertake.

There is also a residential field study trip and Students are also expected to complete reflective journals for each module.

Students complete Part 1 by successfully completing the work their tutors prescribe in an agreed timeframe and by passing the Part 1 MA Exam. They can then progress to Part 2 of the MA course.

Part 2: 60 credits

In the second year students work independently on a Traditional Arts and Crafts Major Assignment. Students choose a subject of their own, guided by their tutors, integrating practice, research, critical understanding, philosophy and theoretical study developed from the course work in Part 1.

Independent assignment work is regularly monitored through tutorials and MA crits. Each student is assigned a personal supervisor. Compulsory geometry classes continue through the second year.

Students complete their independent projects by the end of the second year, in good time for final examination and the Degree Show.

Our Degree show gives graduating MA students the opportunity to show how their studies developed, and their final work.

Our MA degree is validated by the University of Wales Trinity Saint David.

Our Learning and Teaching Strategy is outlined here


The MA course is full-time and requires all students to attend full time. Attendance at all lectures, seminars, course tutorials, studio sessions and other appointments is mandatory. Attendance is an assessable part of each course.

Normal working hours are from 9:30 am to 5:30 pm Monday to Friday. Studios and workshops are available to students outside these hours.

Students will be expected to inform MA staff of absences and provide medical evidence if necessary. Any prolonged absences must be approved by MA staff.

If students need to suspend their studies they will need to provide evidence for their reasons. Any suspension will need to be approved by MA staff and authorised by University of Wales Trinity Saint David.