Am I less of a realist if I choose life working as a craftsman and reject mass making methods, products, methods and materials? That’s what people, thankfully only a few occasional visitors, accuse me of. I have worked with my hands for almost five decades. Does that mean that I can no longer connect to and contribute to the real world of industry and commerce or perhaps those mysterious worlds of entrepreneurial enterprise where words and phrases enhance self-esteem and free thinking movers and shakers write about but do nothing beyond mere words? I confess sensing through those decades that peers (by age) and friends would ask me, “When are you going to get a real job.” That, for me, would have been the easier way, but copping out like that was and never has been an option. I work wood because it’s my calling.
As a Fellow of the RSA, I just read the RSA Winter 2011 member magazine. High profile writers through the years have moved into the void left by workers of real material to tell craft artisans where the future lies based on their research and discussions around the conference tables of the various global zones. Clever words and phrases have somehow replaced the doing of work in the same way writers writing about woodwork tell working craftsmen how they should work, with what, when and where. This kind of unchallenged input, then defines the culture itself so that we buy and sell and move our businesses, schools and strategies to line up with how they perceive we should be doing work. Saw makers in Sheffield and in other places tell us which saws we should use and how much we should pay. Engineers write books on issues surrounding our craft and we, unconsciously for the main part, drift into adopting what they present as truths without seriously examining the past, present and future. We then throw away sound practices only to readopt them five decades later.
I saw something Robin Wood (Heritage Crafts Association) found about a clog maker from Sweden some time back. Old film footage where a man used an axe and some oversized spoon augers to shape a pair of clogs from two sticks of firewood. It was both inspiring and very informing, but more than that it was conservation in action. A great archive for working wood in real ways.
Conservation is very different than preservation in that conservation preserves the whole not merely the part. Conservation is our way of preserving the actual culture itself by the working of the material in the environments conducive to productivity, sustainability and clear consciousness. Conservation doesn’t merely hail the past but works in the present and reaches into the future with hope.
Writing for the Real Woodworking Campaign
We have about 600 people wanting to hear more about real woodworking. As a part of the RWC move forward this year I am asking for voluntary contributions from any woodworker who can help us to evaluate exactly what real woodworking is for them in the form of a written article we can use in the online magazine. I believe this to be an evolving process and the more contributions we have the more balanced the perspective will be. Contributions can be from well-known or unknown writers and non writers from any background and so a contribution does not have to be polished but real. We can work on editorial content.
Content can be on any woodworking issue from plane irons to pressed fibreboard and mass-making machines to how to cut dovetails or apprentice a young worker. It can be pages long or a paragraph or two. That’s all up to you.
Filling the void
Let’s not leave a void that only academics and politicians can fill. There’s a place for both that will create a more balanced perspective to help us make a more balanced assessment that influences the future of craft as a working culture.