What is “craft”?
If you need a lot of pictures, read no further. If vulgarity offends you, read no further.
I’m enchanted by the internet discussions about “what is craft?” For me it’s pretty damned simple. As my Grandfather would say, “We have a job of work to do. The things that we create have a purpose, a function. That is our craft. That is our trade. That’s how we make our living.”
But phenomena like NAFTA and IKEA have changed the landscape dramatically. The market for entrepreneurial craftsmen has been decimated across the nation, with the exception of several tiny areas on the right and left coasts. Doctors and lawyers, social historians, artists and computer designers feel free to provide an explanation as to what the meaning of craft is. There is no doubt that some of the finest woodworking practitioners today do not make their living “at the craft”. And that’s fine, because we need people with a sense of stewardship and who are passionate about the knowledge we share. But, please, let me give you a observation drawn from a somewhat more practical perspective.
The craft is a job, a way of supporting yourself and your loved ones. But much, much more. And someone sitting in an air conditioned studio or editing a digitized “re-publication” is, in my estimation, probably not the one who is best prepared to share its true meaning.
To me and “my brothers in chips” the reality of “the craft” means:
Having to beg my lumber supplier to trust me for another five hundred board feet of material;
Asking Sister “Mary Ridiculous” to keep my kids in school for just another month. “The tuition is coming, I promise”;
Wondering if I’ll ever be paid that final draw, that ten percent that constitutes the profit on any given job;
Filing Mechanics liens;
Trying to agree on a vision with someone who has absolutely no understanding of the task at hand and does not value the investment that I’ve made in study, tools and practice;
Wondering when the next project will come;
Wondering, how in the name of God, I’ll get all this work done;
Loading the truck in the fucking rain;
Loading the truck in the fucking snow;
Loading the truck when it’s 100 degrees Fahrenheit in the shade;
Unloading the fucking truck;
Taking time off the job to meet with the accountant about taxes;
Wondering what will happen if I get sick;
But when all is said and done, I only have to answer to two people, me and my Grandfather. And, there’s only one question – did I do my best work. That, to me, is craft. Vocation while you’re trying to stay afloat. Avocation after you retire. A lover that will never let you go.