29 May 2010

THE TOOLS OF CRAFT



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The correct gear is part of craft. The tools that amplify and leverage the skilled hands of a craftsperson are elemental to its creation.

A furniture builder has a shop with an extensive collection of clamps, saws, planes, sanding devices, along with paints, fasteners, drills, and brushes. The tools are thoughtfully stored, and the work area is well lit and accommodates the work.  It is similar with other types of craft, with the differences are in the specifics and the logistics of the craft itself.

The means, and indeed the tools themselves are part of the ritual and the love of the craft itself. The quest for the right tools is never ending. Those who are destined to be craftspeople deeply desire and pursue the right tools. The interesting thing is that the craftspeople who are deeply in love with what they are doing carry on with their craft no matter what tools they have, adapting to the resources at hand. Ingenuity can overcome the adversity of having the wrong tools, or no tools at all in the act of crafting.

In my younger days of repairing and restoring old cars, I assembled tools as best I could to transform an old wreck of a 1953 Kaiser. Everything on it needed work, from the body to the paint and trim, along with all the upholstery. All the mechanical bits needed reworking, and I did the best I could with what I had. It was in my blood to do the job, and I did it. It was also a painfully slow process; my inexperience and lack of resources severely hampered the work, and the results fell short of the results I had dreamed of.  But I had the fire, and with different life's circumstances I would have continued my pursute, presumably with better tools, facilities, and abilities.

Craft will take place, regardless of the tools. Craft exists, not because of the tools, but from an inner desire to create. Tools are desired, even coveted by the craftsperson; they are part of the joy of the process, and they provide a major mechanical advantage. They yield a better, quicker result, and they help to conserve the material and energy resources of the craftsperson.

We provide very poor tools to build cities. Some of the tools in the box even work at a mechanical disadvantage. I'm not talking about the pencils, paper, and computers of the architects and engineers. I'm not talking about the earthmoving equipment, the cranes and heavy equipment of construction; all those things are actually great. The box of tools for dealing with the political and entitlements process are rusted, dull, and otherwise broken. Those who craft cities have both arms and one leg tied, and are hopping along trying to do something that they love.

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