Monday, September 13, 2010


The ESSA class on bowl turning wrapped up yesterday in the Clear Spring wood shop, as led by Greg Thomas, a skilled and attentive turning teacher. A wooden bowl is a simple thing that requires a surprising amount of concentration. If your mind wanders the bowl gouge can catch rather than cut, tearing out a chunk rather than a thin ribbon of wood. It can yank the gouge from your hands, pull the wood loose from the chuck and destroy your work. It is why you always wear a safety mask when you work.

There are things that happen when we work to develop skill. Some of Greg's students were at the lathe for the first time. Some had finished the class and left with their work before I arrived to take these pictures. The point that is so often missed is that when we craft skilled work, the true shaping that takes place is within the self. And that is the point that is so often missed when non-craftsmen observe the use of crafts for developmental or formative purposes in schools. As Otto Salomon had observed, The value of the carpenter's work is in the usefulness of the object he makes. The value of the student's work, making the same object is in the student.

People take objects for granted. We are swamped by too many cheap and meaningless things. But whole schools can be built with crafts as both foundation and central focus. Early educational theorists, like Rousseau, Comenius, Pestalozzi, Froebel, Cygnaeus, Montessori, and Dewey, understood this but modern educators have completely missed this point. What you see in the photos above and below is evidence of learning and of growth, that can be the foundation of educational enthusiasm for children and adults. It is why I propose the strategic implementation of the hands. A young man or woman standing at a lathe gives shape to much more than wood.

Don't forget the poll at right. One day left to vote.

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