Sunday, April 28, 2019

Planing white oak

  I am reading the new book, Crafting in the World, Materiality in the Making, with particular interest in the chapter by Suzanne Spencer-Wood concerning Educational Sloyd which makes reference to my articles and my assistance in guiding her thoughts.

Among academics, and particularly among those who in the early days of manual arts education, had hoped to use their supreme powers of intellect and linguistic persuasion to marginalize those who they thought worked with their hands alone, the idea they put forth was that hand work was a mindless exercise that did not belong in school. Rhythm of work was studied by Rudolphs J. Drillis in Latvia, and his work showed that a certain rhythm could make work less tiring and more efficient. So if someone, an academician, perhaps, was just watching without taking part in the exercise himself, the components of mindfulness required might be missed as the motions of the body may distract from the elements of mind that are less apparent to the uniformed or to those lacking experience in the real world.

As Crafting in the World shows, the manual arts are far from mindless. Works like Suzanne's are important in breaking through the prevailing mindset in academic life. The short video shows one of my students using a plane to surface wood. In viewing one might miss the aspects of mind involved.

Makali is watching the effects of the plane on wood. He is feeling through his hands and arms the amount of resistance as the plane's blade cuts. He observes the shavings that accumulate and removes them from the mouth of the plane when required. By gauging and comparing the amount of resistance as the plane passes over the surface of the wood  he learns the direction of wood grain.  He may shift the orientation of his labor to get better results. By observing the surface of the wood, he is guided in the continuation of his work. He may make a decision, based on either the amount of energy he has left, in his body or on the achievement of his desired effect, that he's done enough and is ready to move on to the next step. In the first place, it was something he wanted to do. That, and the persistence through his labor involves will, the primary element of mind, that should be the outcome of successful schooling. (Though it often is not as we as a society seem to prefer cultivating mindless consumers of information over the makers of real things.)

Make, fix, create, grow, create and assist others in learning likewise.

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