On Craft

On Craft

Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry Into the Value of Work

I can’t praise this book more highly. It gave me a newfound appreciation and perspective for everything that I was trying to convey in Charlotte.   I could go on (and on), but Jackson Lears, Editor-in-Chief of the Raritan, conveys my sentiment better, and more concisely, than I could myself.  He writes:  "Matt Crawford has written a brave and indispensable book. By making a powerful case for the enduring value of the manual trades, Shop Class as Soulcraft offers a bracing alternative to the techno-babble that passes for conventional wisdom, and points the way to a profoundly necessary reconnection with the material world.  No one who cares about the future of human work can afford to ignore this book."  I would only add that I hope this book spawns a movement of serious inquiry into the value of manual work for the health of the body, soul, and society.

The Craft Reader

The Craft Reader is a comprehensive anthology of writings on every aspect of craft — from the seminal texts of the Arts and Crafts Movement to today's “DIY” movement, from soulful meditations to theoretical writings by influential practitioners, from feminist histories of textiles to descriptions of the innovation born of necessity —  this reader covers practitioners and thinkers from all over the globe.  The world of craft is considered in its full breadth: from pottery and how-to texts on weaving, to couture and chocolate-making, to contemporary art, architecture and curation.   This is a big, bulky book.  But don’t be intimidated by its girth, as it is contains 84 distinct articles and can be accessed and appreciated in bite-size portions.  Each section and article is expertly introduced by Adamson, and his Annotated Guide to Further Reading is an excellent guide to the current literature on the subject.

The Craftsman

This is a beautifully written, philosophically informed inquiry into craftsmanship, its history, importance, and how “craft-ing” is inextricably connected to what it is to be human.  This is a scholarly account and thus is not the easiest book to read, but the struggle to comprehend this work will be richly rewarded with a genuinely deep understanding.  Ultimately, what I find most satisfying about this work is how Sennett uses craft both to critique our current working roles and relationships, and as a guide to more satisfying and sustainable economic arrangements.

The Thinking Hand (Architectural Design Primer)

This book is a bit of an odd duck in the current context.  It tends to be theoretical and abstruse, and its focus is on embodied creativity and (terrestrial) architecture.  That said, I find it relevant to understanding both the “doing” of boat building and the physical relationship between people and boats.  This is from the publisher’s description: “The Thinking Hand is a metaphor for the characteristic independence and autonomous activity of all our senses as they constantly scan the physical world.  Even in the case of learning skills, the sequence of movements in a task is internalized and embodied rather than understood and remembered intellectually. Prevailing educational philosophies continue to emphasize conceptual, intellectual and verbal knowledge over this tacit and non-conceptual wisdom of our embodied processes, which is so essential to our experience and understanding of the physical and the built.”