Saturday, December 05, 2015

a little craft show

My wife and I went to the little craft show in Fayetteville, Arkansas last night. I  was lured there by the opportunity to see old friends that have their work in the show. I was pleased to discover that there were so many young people involved. By that I was reminded of my own first shows as a craftsman and how much my work has progressed over the course of 40 years.

I was not surprised that so much work would be produced by computers or assisted by computer aided design. In the old days of craft fairs if there were cards for sale, they were hand-crafted and drawn in calligraphic stokes, real pen, and real ink on paper, and that, too, was often hand made. These days, that's not often the case.

My wife bought a 3-D printed cake topper, and as I examined it, I knew that although it was a good product, there were no traditional crafting skills involved. The only engagement of the hands required were to peal it off the bed of the printer and put in its lovely package. And that, I hope is not indicative of the direction that American Crafts must go. Surely there is more to the movement than that.

In my shop, I am working on the top panels for 32 boxes. Some of the panels were demonstration panels from an ESSA class I taught last summer. Those I am installing in the recently made boxes, as shown in the photo above. More veneered panels will have to be made. And my purpose, of course is to simply keep engaged in the process of making. Some, when they are finished will be offered for sale through local galleries and through Etsy.

My book on making Froebel's gifts, Toys for Hand Made Learning has officially entered the editorial phase, and the target date for publication should be established soon. The following is from Susan Blow's Symbolic Education:
In the formative instinct of childhood Froebel discerned an analogous attempt of mind to stamp itself upon its environment. The child is constantly trying either to change something or to make something. This persistent effort hints to us that mind is something more than an intellectual stomach. Knowledge is food, but creation is life, and we do not live to eat, but eat to live. Even as I write, I am conscious of stating a half truth. For if it be true that himself as in a mirror. Creation, therefore, culminates in revelation. Froebel never loses sight of these two aspects of mind; and if he tells us that "man made in the image of God must from the beginning of life be conceived and treated as a creative being," he insists with equal force that "to become conscious of self is the first business of the child and the whole business of man."
The craft show was a reminder for me that we must never worry about the loss of the human inclination to make. It seems to be inherent in the nature of man to do so. On the other hand I am a bit worried that computers have made many things much too easy. The most difficult and challenging things we do are ones that stick to the ribs, build mass in the structure, create wisdom in the mind and hands and create momentum for the journey forward in the development of craft. Geoffrey Chaucer had said, "The lyf so short, the craft so long to lerne, the' assay so hard, so sharp the conqueryinge." But if things are made too easy, how will young people draw satisfaction at the deepest levels.

Make, fix, create, and extend to others the opportunity to learn likewise.


  1. I started following your blog at about the time you were explaining Froebel's ideas. My youngest grandson was 4 and I decided to build Froebel's Gifts for him. This Christmas it is Gift #5 I and have come to realize that my problem solving skills in woodworking are being challenged as I solve the problems of cutting 1" cubes along their diagonals and having them be reassembled again as 1" cubes just as his problem solving skills are going to be challenged as he works with the gift. What a wonderful gift to both of us! Thank you, Doug...and Merry Christmas to "all-o-y'all" from gold country in California. JK

  2. John, the gifts were also a head-scratcher for me. I tried to remember that Froebel would not have had the power tools that I have, and that his workmanship at such a small scale must have been challenging for him too.

    Thanks for following the blog and also for extending Froebel's gifts into a new generation.