Wall Street Journal Blog Article - "A Handmade Tale"

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Blog entry by Eric M. Saperstein posted 12-13-2009 11:18 PM 1364 reads 0 times favorited 7 comments Add to Favorites Watch

By Katherine Rosman | Photographs by Christopher Griffith

Just figured the folks here would appreciate this article: Extract below – link above goes to the full article.

Artisan stands for quality. “The craftsman is a haughty figure,” says Matthew B. Crawford, the author of “Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry into the Value of Work.” “He does what he knows how to do well. If he finds an audience, that’s great. But for him it’s about pride.” Richard Sennett, the renowned sociologist and professor at New York University and the London School of Economics, argues in his 2008 book, “The Craftsman,” that working with one’s hands impacts intellectual thought and philosophical reasoning. “Craftsmanship is about doing something well for its own sake,” he says. As Americans moved away from creating tangible goods—as they shifted from manufacturing to a service economy—they let go of the commitment and patience required to perfect a skill. “The work ethic has been weakened in America and Britain,” Sennett says. “It’s an issue of quality of work.”

-- Eric M. Saperstein, Master Craftsman

7 comments so far

View Russel's profile


2199 posts in 3967 days

#1 posted 12-14-2009 12:23 AM

A very good article. It says a lot of what I’ve come to think since starting the woodworking “thing”.

-- Working at Woodworking

View mlovette's profile


16 posts in 3146 days

#2 posted 12-14-2009 01:17 AM

Excellent article…I would have to agree with a lot of the points made. Our consumer oriented economy has made it increasingly difficult for the true artisan / craftsman to exist. However, I believe that people are starting to change the way they think about mass produced goods and are starting to value the unique, finely crafted items that a true craftsman can produce.

-- Mike - Woodworking rookie from NC

View rustfever's profile


752 posts in 3338 days

#3 posted 12-14-2009 01:51 AM

Craftsman is one with Integrity.

He (she) is doing what is right, even when no one is watching or would be able to discover otherwise.

-- Rustfever, Central California

View Pimzedd's profile


606 posts in 4171 days

#4 posted 12-14-2009 02:17 AM

I have read Crawford’s book “Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry into the Value of Work.” or at least listened to it on CD. It was a very cerebral exercise. A lot of what he wrote is over my head. Of course I have the head of a Shop Class teacher!

I am planning on reading the actual book this spring. I am looking forward to doing so. I hope it will continue to reinforce my belief that my choice of occupations, shop teacher, was a path worth taking.

-- Bill - Mesquite, TX --- "Everything with a power cord eventually winds up in the trash.” John Sarge , timber framer and blacksmith instructor at Tillers International school

View closetguy's profile


744 posts in 3920 days

#5 posted 12-14-2009 03:33 AM

I found it boring. While you guys are psycho-analyzing what we are, I’m going to the shop and “git ‘er done”. I’ll catch you at the coffee break….

-- I don't make mistakes, only design

View Derek Lyons's profile

Derek Lyons

584 posts in 3596 days

#6 posted 12-14-2009 03:40 AM

The author of the piece is (roughly speaking) utterly and completely clueless. There hasn’t been a rebirth of the artisan – because they never died and their popularity never waned (at least among those who could afford the bespoke). What has grown in popularity over recent years is the ‘pseudo’ artisan. That is, someone who can turn out something mostly, but not entirely, crap and sell it to the credulous masses at ridiculous prices because such ‘artisanal’ crap is currently all the buzzword rage and the masses wouldn’t recognize quality if it ran up and slapped them in the face.

-- Derek, Bremerton WA --

View ShopCat's profile


51 posts in 3607 days

#7 posted 12-14-2009 04:25 AM

Sounds a bit like E. F. Schumacher’s Small Is Beautiful: Economics As If People Mattered from the early ‘70’s.

It came out and became popular around the time of a major economic crisis (lots of people seem to have forgotten how bad the 74-76 economy was). At around the same time income growth in blue collar jobs in the U.S. stopped and has never really resumed.

We’re not unique in that. In the early ‘70’s I was studying Econ at a school in England and came across a graph/table on the history of capital investment in British factories. I had thought that the decline in Great Britain came as a consequence of WW I and II. What I saw was that investment in British factories started down in the 1890’s and never recovered. George Sturt’s The Wheelwright’s Shop is a pretty good history of what life was like at that moment. Ironically, the skilled craftsmen of rural England were being displaced by lower quality mass manufactured goods from the U.S. where labor was considerably cheaper.

-- ShopCat

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