Saturday, January 06, 2007

A common question that people ask when looking at crafts is "how long did it take to make that?" People want to be able to understand the object and its price in terms they can understand. Few people in today's society can understand from their own experience all the various elements involved in creating an object. The photo above is of the kinds of small boxes I've sold through craft fairs and galleries during my 30+ years as a craftsman. There is no way to explain the work in terms of time alone. The following is a woodturner's poem.

How long does it take to make one of those?

Do you mean…
not plant the tree, but find the wood,
just ‘see’ the piece, (as if I could)?
to find a highly figured burl,
a crotch, an eye, or pearly curl?
And once I spy it, perhaps buy it,
inventory, store, and dry it?
Then saw or cut it, possibly I kiln it’
glue, imbue with fill, or drill it?
You mean, that once I’m satisfied
it’s stopped the warps, checks, cracks, once dried?
And mounted on the lathe, to turn it,
(which takes much practice, just to learn it;
and then employ a gouge, or two,
or use a skew, which I don’t eschew,
to mold it, shape it (what’s your pleasure?)
by all means, I’m sure to measure,
then sand it smooth, please wear your mitts,
from coarse to fine, 10,000 grits,
then braze, or burnish, paint, or polish,
(the goal: enhance, and don’t demolish)?
Is that your question, start to end,
how long’s that path, its way to wend?
Or do you merely want to know how long it turned?
Ten minutes, or so.

John A. Styer, The Lathe-meister

This poem helps to explain the concept of finger blindness. If you have never had the opportunity to be involved in the making of objects from your own vision and creativity, the only way you will be able to relate to objects at all is in economic terms as in the question..."how long did it take to make it?" ...a question that seeks to place an object in an economic frame of reference from which the questioner can review the making of the object in the only context he or she may actually understand...dollars per hour. This poem also explains why all children need to have the opportunity to be involved in the arts and the process of making. We are finger-blind without it.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous7:37 AM

    I love that question, and I'd have to agree with the poet about what the person is really asking. And really, what is our time worth? Much as I love working with wood for just the pleasure of it, if I set something out for sale it has to be worth my time and the buyer's money.