So, as you might have gathered, this Design and the Market module I’m doing at uni has had me thinking about my future rather a lot.
I’d had Richard Sennett’s book, The Craftsman, languishing on my bookshelf for quite some time and thought now was probably as good a time as any to read it.
Sennett is exploring the idea of craftsmanship, of doing something well for its own sake, as a template for living. He argues that pure competition will never produce good work.
As a student, studying jewellery and metal design, of course this is going to be of interest (which is why I bought the book in the first place, with all those good intentions, quite some time ago…). Because the making part of making seems to be becoming increasingly redundant.
You don’t need to set stones yourself, you can send them away and someone else will do it for you. You don’t need to cast things yourself – you can just send away a mould. CAD (Computer Assisted Design) is another interesting one…
Sennett questions what has happened to the idea of craftsmanship in the 21st Century. We live in a culture that is driven by mass production where everything is manufactured by machines rather than crafted by human hands. We employ this method of making to speed up production, , keep costs down but ultimately, what we sacrifice is an understanding of the materials we are trying to work with. There’s a fundamental disconnect.
CAD allows the instant modelling of products and allows the designer to see the object from multiple points of view. The on-screen rendering can be lengthened, shrunk or broken into parts. Sections can be copied and replicated into a variety of different designs within minutes. And then your PDF can be emailed to a company who will… cast your design for you.
When you draw and physically make something, it’s a process of constant refinement. Of repetition and practice. But this process is removed by CAD. Once points are plotted on-screen, algorithms do the drawing. Used properly, it can be flawless in its accuracy.
The act of drawing and physically making pieces, even if they are just samples, also makes you consider colour, texture, materials and how they can be worn – other elements that are lost using CAD.
There seems to be a conflict between getting something right and getting something done, quality based on correctness and quality based on practical experience. Skill is a trained practice, and in many ways, modern technology deprives us of the repetition required to develop skill. And when the head and the hand are separated, there is going to a fundamental impairment of the development of skill.
I’d be interested to hear your views on this.