Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Finding a balance... this morning I have the 3rd and 4th grade students in the woodshop to do paper sloyd, and then the 1st and 2nd grade students to make abacuses (I'm not sure what the plural form should be.) There is a balance there. One project is easy for me. I get out the supplies and the students pick up where they left off last week. The second project is more demanding. To prepare for this class we made over 400 wooden beads to fit on about 40 wooden dowels. Add to that the pre-milling of 24 parts and precise drilling of 80 holes and you get the idea. Some things require skill and time in preparation, and some things just take time that can be more relaxed and leave you feeling under less pressure. The secret is in the balance. We need to feel the stimulation of demanding work under pressure, and we need the times to go ahhhh.

In my work as a craftsman, it is the same. While the making of small boxes seems like it would be an intense operation, I have actually done it so many times, and worked out the processes to such a point of refinement, that to spend a week making boxes is like taking a week off from my more demanding work. The balance comes in my making of custom furniture. I make things that I've never made before, engineering each piece which often involves learning new skills and developing new approaches to get the look I and my customer want. And then there is the money end of things. I know how long it takes to make a box and how much I can get paid for one. I've been making and selling similar boxes for 30 years. When I make a piece of furniture, it is extremely unlikely that I've made anything much like it in the last 20 years. It is hard to estimate costs and actually come out without losing money.

There are important things to be found in the balance. Human labor in the natural world has always been within a range from highly skilled and demanding, balanced with times and labors less demanding and requiring less skill and attention.

Something very tragic happened to work when manufacturing divided labor into skilled and unskilled. The long, long hours of repetitive, mind, heart and hand numbing work gave manual labor a bad name, stripped it of its dignity, and similtaneously, stripped those lucky enough to fall into the upper classes of the motivation to engage in the discovery of the full range of their human potential.

I hope to talk more about this ...but for the moment, it is off to school.

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