22 May 2010

CHARACTERISTICS OF CRAFT

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My Wife's bread / photo by Doug Joyce

There may be numbers on how many individuals are preoccupied by craft across the globe. No matter how many exactly; suffice to say that it is in sufficient numbers that we are not in any risk of losing the trait in our universal society. It is a self-sustaining characteristic, and it has been with us since creation. It links the artistic urge with the need to solve practical problems. It covers the range between humble stich-work of mending a hole in a thoughtful way to the fabrication of a jewel encrusted crown for a king. It can be as simple as a way to chop wood, or as elaborate as a superior manufacturing process to make a beautifully finished object. It is inherently conceived and realized in the work of one person- a craftsperson. Yet is most assuredly exists within a group of dedicated people who are guided to make something useful with exceptional qualities.

There is a difference between what we have to do and what we want to do, or even love to do. Desire compels someone who wants to do something to invest time, knowledge, and the desire to get things right make it so. And it is the component of desire that makes the work craft. By its nature, it is our best work.

Craft has an understanding of how what comes from it will be used, and it what context. Because it is not strictly art, it tempers the pure creative thought with a pretext. Craft is by nature, well tempered, because that is part of the design brief. By no means does craft lack of a bold idea; it simply is ‘appropriate’ because it needs to be to work well.

Craft exists onside of what we think of as rules, although it does seem to adhere to some greater truths of the universe. Examples exist thoughout the civilized world where a great idea is thwarted by rules and conventions. The craftsperson finds that some of the most formidable obstacles to getting something accomplished are rules and laws that were poorly crafted and considered in the first place, an irony because pure craft is for the good of all.

The rules of our society are effective, because people craft. Carrying out the rules in a way so as to be effective, comes from a conviction and preparation that can be described as a kind of a craft. If a critical mass of people simply don’t care, bending, glossing over, and breaking the rules, then the whole thing breaks down. If a critial mass understands why the rules are in place, and has taken the time to have an understanding of why this is best for all, including themselves, then we have a working, effective, and crafted society.

The ethic of craft can be applied to literally everything that we do. It merely requires that the individual consider what they will do, gathering the appropriate information and resources to get the craft done, while considering in every way how one can experience this thing that is being done or created. All this while thoroughly enjoying the planing and creation of the craft itself. It is preparing a meal, making ready for bed, designing a new city block, writing a concerto, putting a band-aid on your child’s injured knee, consoling a grieving friend, working on a political campaign, and washing your dog. Everything.

A problem to solve and a solution to be realized most often exists in the mind of an individual at first, and we think of craft as being of one person. But realistically there exists challenges that must be confronted by a group of people, by a neighborhood, or a community, by an organization or a corporation. These challenges can be met in a crafted way. The best way to do that is for the group with the challenge to behave and organize in a crafted way, as in, this organization is actually a work of craft into and of itself.

Finally, craft is the ultimate expression of a desire to be like the Creator, or stated a different way, to make the world a better place, one craft at a time. Craft is an expression of love; it exists in the isolation of its creation, then is offered up to the user and to the world as a whole.

For whatever the ‘things’ around us matter, most likely what make them matter is the craft that goes into them.

And so to sum up, some of the characteristics of craft are:

  • It is an innate human trait
  • It is how we do our best work
  • It acknowledges the circumstances and surroundings that it exists in
  • Craft exists in spite of the rules and systems we set
  • The rules and systems we set work because of the instinct of craft within the people who carry it out
  • It can apply to everything we do (yes, everything!)
  • Larger scale things (say, cities) rely on the collective and collaborative craft of many
  • Collective and collaborative craft and have serendipitous and delightfully unexpected results; one is wise to take advantage and use this
  • Craft is love

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