Monday, September 21, 2009

a nation of craftspeople?

In Richard Sennett's interview in American Craft, he is asked by Suzanne Ramljak, editor of Metalsmith Magazine: When you speak about building a nation of craftspeople, do you have an ideal cultural model or movement in mind, either historical or contemporary?
RS: There are lots of small examples, but nothing that represents a huge alternative. In the beginning of the Craftsman I describe the community of Linux programmers and their chat rooms, which involve highly focused work on a concrete project. It is very interactive and very cooperative. Another small example in the U.K. is the organic farm movement, which is also quite cooperative, and where people are always discussing the skills of actually growing food. Now that isn't going to shake the powers of the supermarket, but it is a strong movement. So there are lots of small initiatives like this. And in traditional crafts the same sort of thing is going on, with the return of people doing skilled physical work like weaving, knitting and sewing, for example. Parts of those economic sectors are coming back to life and they are much more collaborative. The idea of this is twofold: one is small-scale and face-to-face, and the other is web-based. I think the web is a fantastic medium for craftsmen. It is a means for mutual support, skill sharing and problem solving. There is something inherently workshop-like that dwells on the web; it is a great technology for craft.
The internet allows us more than ever before to think globally. We have the opportunity like never before to know what others throughout the world are doing, feeling and thinking. We have the opportunity to share our thoughts, feeling and ideas with others in ways unprecedented. Now, the question arises, can we bring production of the goods, foodstuffs and services home to our own communities where we can observe real craftsman-like growth in each other? It is a noteworthy ambition. When a young man or woman is offered the opportunity to create an object of useful beauty, he or she is self-reshaped in finer form.

Ironically this month's American Craft magazine's lead article and cover photo are about a young woman who uses her own body for the display of and experimentation with rather shocking self-made adornment. Some may find the article offensive. But the deeper truth is that when we make, it is truly ourselves that are made. And if we desire a society of wealth, environmental responsibility, peace and social justice it will arrive through our own hands in the remaking of ourselves. We have been made numb to our creative capacities, lulled by ease of excessive consumption. But it is not enough to think globally as the internet allows without concurrent local application of knowledge gained. Make, craft, cook, sew, weave, create, fix, nurse, plant, harvest, care. What the craftspeople most truly make are themselves.

Today in the Clear Spring School wood shop, the fourth, 5th and 6th grade students worked on their mineral collection boxes and sieves for use in rock and mineral mining, which will take place during their Arkansas travels. The high school students continued work on their spalted maple furniture and now have progressed from working on their lumber to design.

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