The Craftsman

Craftsmanship names an enduring, basic human impulse, the desire to do a job well for its own sake.

"Material culture": instead of looking at objects as worthy of regard in themselves, treat the shaping of such things as mirrors of social norms, economic interests, religious convictions; discount the thing itself.

- What does the process of making concrete things reveal about ourselves?

People can learn about themselves through the things they make. 

Craftsmanship: the skill of making things well

"Craftsmanship names an enduring, basic human impulse, the desire to do a job well for its own sake."

The craftsman's consciousness of materials, leaving traces of herself in inanimate things

"History has drawn fault lines dividing practice and theory, technique and expression, craftsman and artist, maker and user; modern society suffers from this historical inheritance."

Ritual as a kind of craft; it requires skill and needs to be done well; the craft of ritual makes faith physical

Shakespeare's Coriolanus: "I am my own maker."

Craftsmen's labour is practical activity, but not simply a means to another end

Greek: demioergos: craftsman; cheirotechnon: handworker

What arouses the motivation/ desire to work hard and well? Morality; working for the community? Competition? No?

Japan: "a nation of craftsmen"

Typical of the craftman's approach is that you think and do at the same time. You create, revisit, do, redo, and redo again. 

The difference between brute imitation of procedure and the larger understanding of how to use what one knows is a mark of all skill development. 

Most knowledge craftsmen possess is tacit knowledge; people know how to do something but they cannot put what they know into words. Craftwork establishes a realm of skill and knowledge perhaps beyond human verbal capacities to explain. 

One solution to the limits of language is to substitute the image for the word. 

Zen buddhism

Trial and error; craft activating pur sense of inadequacy

Perfection, originality and individuality

Who can explain what's happening?

Can you truly understand something intellectually if you cannot do it well practically? Some things are beyond words

Will machines allow for perfection in human craft? In theory computers allow for mathematical perfection, but human error comes in the way

John Ruskin, the romantic craftsman

Cultures form around highly specialised skills; fraternities, guilds, intimate workshops

Following technological development and working WITH the machine, instead of against it or letting the machine do the work for you by automation

Material consciousness

"Are we aware of words in the way we feel an intestine by touch?"

Sennett's proposal: We become particularly interested in things we can change

Metamorphosis(change in procedure), presence(leaving a maker's mark; decoration or imperfection), and anthropomorphosis(when we impute human qualities to a raw material)

Plodding craft labor is a means to DISCOVER it. 

User-friendly methods inspire instant confidence

False security: "the computer understands the answer but I don't think you understand the answer"

Spellcheck that doesn't teach you why one grammatical construction is preferable to others

What motivates us to pursue a demanding path?


"Transitional objects": things we change(?)

Uncertain or unstable experiences (that we sense we might be able to improve?); believing in correctness drives technical improvement; curiousity about transitional objects evolves into definitions of what they should be; the belief in and search for correctness in technique breeds expression

Ability to recognize mistakes and learn from them; having a standard of correctness that our definitions and descisions are based upon; in order to improve and eventuallt get them right the craftsman has to be willing to make these mistakes

Technique develops by a dialectic between the correct way to do something and the willingness to experiment through error

Create messes in order to understand working procedures

How do we judge whether a particular action is worth concentrating on?

Concentration and rythm: rythm and commitment, rituals repeated become persuasive

Expressive instructions; show, don't tell

Language struggles with depicting physical action

Re-imagine vulnerability, sympathy with the apprentice

Metaphoric language, giving human qualities to things (persian recipe, japanese kawaii; anima, inner being just like humans)

Arousal: how intuitive leaps happen

Intuition begins with the sense that what isn't yet could be; by feeling frustrated with a tool's limits or provoked by its untested possibilities

Trying out, experimenting, discovering lets the maker experience wonder

Resistance and ambiguity; if you try too hard, you won't hit the target

Too much resistance might cause frustration and lead us to give up, but some skills allow people to dwell productively in frustration:

Reformatting/recasting the problem

When something takes longer than expected, stop fighting it. The good craftsman is patient and capable of staying with frustrating work. 

Selecting an aspect of resistance that you can work with

Resistance awakes imagination (adobe???)

Improvisation as craft

The desire to do good work vs the ability required

Everyone has rougly equal raw abilities starting out: Social conditions shape our motivation/aspiration for quality in a field 

Pursuit of excellence; learning how to use obsessional energy well

The relentless pursuit of excellence as a badge of distinction


The gradual accumulation of knowledge and skills and the ever-stronger conviction that one was meant to do this one particular thing in one's life

Nearly anyone can become a good craftsman

Work and play; not opposites!; the thread of craft

Play teaches children to be sociable and channels cognitive development; instills obedience to rules but counters this discipline by allowing children to create and experiment with the rules they obey

Friedrich von Schiller: "On the aesthetic education of man"

When utility rules, adults lose the free curiousity that occurs in open space of play

Erik Erikson (writings on play)

The capacity to question what is; curiousity; problem finding and problem solving!

John Dewey: "Both work and play are equally free and intrinsically motivated, apart from false economic conditions which tend to make play into idle excitement for the well to do, and work into uncongenial labor for the poor. Work is psychologically simply an activity which consciously includes regard for consequences as part of itself; it becomes constrained labor when the consequences are outside of the activity, as an end to which activity is merely means. Work which remains permeated with the play attitude is art." (Democracy and Education)

Good craftsmanship implies socialism

John Ruskin, William Morris

Pride in one's work lies at the heart of craftsmanship as the reward for skill and commitment

Skills that mature over time

Slow craft time enables the work of reflection and imagination