Friday, December 02, 2011

academics vs. craftsmanship?

My point is not to disparage, but to help establish a more leveled playing field for the arts. I was reading an article yesterday in which my blog was mentioned and it said,
"The discussion in the Netherlands about skills-oriented education versus academic, cognitive schooling reflects similar discussions elsewhere."
This quote inadvertently describes a pervasive false assumption about manual arts... that the manual arts or crafts, in comparison to academic studies are non-cognitive. I know this was not the author's intent. As well known by those who work to create useful beautiful objects, there could be nothing further from the truth.

There are some differences between academic scholars and craftsmen, but the difference is not one of cognitive engagement. Each endeavor takes intellect. The tools may be slightly different. The tools of the craftsman, each of which has evolved through many generations to embody greater intelligence, are for defining the shape, size, beauty and utility of materials. The books in a scholar's library are tools recording the thoughts of previous generations just as the tools on a carpenter's bench record the skills, thoughts and experiences of previous generations. Like a craftsman the scholar will also utilize some physical tools, like writing instruments, computers and the like. He or she uses concepts, references and analogy in place of materials in his work. His or her work exists primarily within the confines of language and published material may be the only tangible expression of his or her labors while the craftsman makes beautifully intelligent things each day to serve in the lives of others.

And then we come to the truth. This is from Charles H. Ham, 1880:
"Nothing stimulates and quickens the intellect more than the use of mechanical tools. The boy who begins to construct things is compelled at once to begin to think, deliberate, reason, and conclude. As he proceeds he is brought in contact with powerful natural forces. If he would control, direct, and apply these forces he must first master the laws by which they are governed; he must investigate the causes of the phenomena of matter, and it will be strange if from this he is not also led to a study of the phenomena of mind. At the very threshold of practical mechanics a thirst for wisdom is engendered, and the student is irresistibly impelled to investigate the mysteries of philosophy. Thus the training of the eye and hand reacts upon the brain, stimulating it to excursions into the realm of scientific discovery in search of facts to be applied in practical forms at the bench and the anvil."
The human being is constantly seeking the truth; the hand is constantly finding it.

I am preparing for a Holiday Art Show at Lux Weaving Studio on Saturday (21 White St. 5-9 PM, and I am cleaning the shop, finish room and office to prepare for a video shoot next week. I will be like a fish out of water as my hands are put to tasks other than making beautiful and useful things.

Make, fix and create...

1 comment:

  1. "The boy who begins to construct things ... must investigate the causes of the phenomena of matter" -- the last word, "matter," caught my attention as it goes to the issue of curiosity in children, of things mattering to them, which is something I worry about. This is not idle wordplay, it seems to me: things that matter are things that have real, material consequences. So when we see children who seem to lack curiosity, for whom little seems to matter, we might wonder whether they're overly abstracted from matter itself. Conversely, it seems plausible to say that children who are most engaged materially seem to be more curious. And when people are curious about something, don't they want to find a way to materially engage with it? It's a virtuous cycle.