Saturday, March 18, 2017

moving toward a new era of craftsmanship...

It is spring break at the Clear Spring School, so I have the coming week off to attend to other things. One thing is to prepare for the Woodworker's Showcase April 1 and 2 where I'll be a judge and teach 4 one-hour and 15 minute classes. Another is that I have a film crew coming on March 28 to take some video footage for a documentary film about Kindergarten. A third thing is that I always have wood working to do in my own shop.

We have been making progress on tools and equipment for the new ESSA wood studio. Lee Valley is preparing benches to ship which should be completed in about 10 days.

Thorstein Veblen was a Norwegian American economist and sociologist who explored the relationship between workmanship and economy. His years (1857-1929) roughly paralleled the rise and fall of Educational Sloyd which had promoted woodworking in all schools for all students as a way through which society at large would be lifted toward respect for all persons within. Along similar lines, Veblen invented the term conspicuous consumption, and suggested that the pecuniary impulse in a society is often at odds with the rise of individual craftsmanship. In fact, the leisure class may place economic value on the work of certain individual craftsmen, but show disdain for the irksome craftsmen who had created the work.

The interesting thing is that we know that craftsmanship, the practice of getting good at some tangible act, is one of the means through which human beings moderate their emotional lives, finding self-esteem and through which we create meaningful communities. The rich may look down upon those who've created our cities, and on those who place food on their tables, but to do so is destructive, just as we have learned so many times before through the rise and fall of empires if we were paying any attention at all.

What we need is for a new era of craftsmanship to arise: one in which people at all levels of society are creatively engaged in the practice of making beautiful and useful things.  How can we move in that direction? Only as we take matters into our own hands. In the Educational Sloyd image above, Otto Salomon was careful to show that woodworking was a gentlemanly pursuit, one that the rich might pursue and expressed dignity as well as skill and intelligence.

Make, fix and create...

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