Friday, March 05, 2010

on designers

These days the designers bask in glory, but is it truly theirs? David Pye in the Nature and Art of Workmanship said:
Our environment in its visible aspect owes far more to workmanship than we realize. There is in the man made world a whole domain of quality which is not the result of design and owes little to the designer. On the contrary, indeed, the designer is deep in its debt, for every card in his hand was put there originally by the workman. No architect could specify ashlar until a mason had perfected it and shown him that it could be done. Designers have only been able to exist by exploiting what workmen have evolved or invented.
When I was growing as a craftsman, I kept meeting other woodworkers who had claims of themselves as being "designers" and whose hopes were to sell their ideas to manufacturers for the big bucks. There is a broader view of that. You design things based on the experience of real craftsmen, then harness unskilled labor to the commands and demands of the machine to do the work. But there is a simplicity and grace in being a craftsman, a common maker of things, that transcends all else. The designers will come and pirate the contributions we make, but will have little deep joy in the process of creation.

The image above is of David Pye's work.

Today I'll be traveling to Dayton to teach box making.

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