Monday, June 04, 2012

obvious to some and not others...

What is perfectly obvious to some may not be to others. For example, when Ken Trapp was curator of crafts at the Renwick, he had curated an exhibit of works collected by the American Association of Woodturners and the Turning Center in Philadelphia. As he was passing through the exhibit a museum guard asked him, "Does the making of these things require thought?" For some reason the guard guessed that these objects were made in some mindless fashion, perhaps by machine. Ken, somewhat astounded at the question led the guard to a few examples by some of the great American woodturners, and discussed the intellectual content of each piece, pointing out how each required thought and exquisite understanding of the tools, material and form and even if all were done automatically by machine, a huge amount of intelligence was invested in each piece.

Most folks who spend time working consciously with their hands know from personal experience the connection between hand and mind, and those who have been left untrained of hand, may not grasp the connection. Those of us who do work with our hands are often surprised (as was Ken Trapp) that some are oblivious to what is clearly obvious to us.
“As the development of the motor centers in the brain hinges, in a great degree upon the movements and exercises of youth, it will be readily understood how important is the nature of the part played by the early exercise of the hand. There can be no doubt that the most active epoch in the development of these motor centers is from the fourth to fifteenth year, after which they become comparatively fixed and stubborn. Hence it can be understood that boys and girls whose hands have been left altogether untrained up to the fifteenth year are practically incapable of high manual efficiency thereafter.”--James Crichton Browne
To that I can add that those left untrained of hand and mind are intellectually and culturally impaired as well, "fixed and stubborn" in their thoughts.

Just as Ken took the museum guard more deeply into the intellectual content of each piece, we share the same responsibility when faced with ignorance and judgement about hand work and hand skills. An understanding of the value of connecting intelligently with physical reality through the development of skilled hands is essential to the future of humanity.

Today I am working on pencil cups and business card holders to fill an order that must go out Friday.

Make, fix and create...

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