What is “Craft” vs “Art”

(I have ruminated upon this before and probably will again…)

Ars longa, Vita brevis

This saying was ancient when St Francis of Assisi wrote it down.

Ὁ βίος βραχύς,ἡ δὲ τέχνη μακρή,ὁ δὲ καιρὸς ὀξύς,ἡ δὲ πεῖρα σφαλερή,ἡ δὲ κρίσις χαλεπή.

Was written by Hippocrates,

it starts:

life is short and art takes time, this was translated to latin as:

Vīta brevis,ars longa,occāsiō praeceps,experīmentum perīculōsum,iūdicium difficile.

and in English:

Life is short, and art long, opportunity fleeting, experimentations perilous, and judgment difficult.

and Chaucer used it as:

The lyf so short, the craft so long to lerne

which Gustav Stickley used as his motto in all of his advertising.

Ars or art until Chaucer changes it to craft…

Before these words were divided, they meant the same thing. Craft or art was the knowing of how to do things.

Some time between 1066 and now:

Art became painting, sculpture, and Grand Architecture.

Craft became knitting, weaving, house building, furniture making, boatbuilding, basket weaving, rope making and making things from rope, farming, fishing, and essentially everything else that people did and made.

I blame it on the Norman invasion.

but whatever the cause of the rift in definitions,

Art is display of wealth and power,

Craft is display of skill in making ordinary things.

And then our language (or society) inserts or reinserts ambiguity, by calling the most excellent craftsmen: “artists”, and sometimes even calling an artist, a craftsman.

my mind, my core, my soul if you will, wants a disambiguation of this. and yet it doesn’t.

There are craftsmen who look down on artists because they do not do the same thing twice, are not able to do a thing twice. they think the artist is all imagination and no skill.

There are artists who look down on craftsmen because the craftsmen keep making the same thing over and over and over… they think a craftsman is all skill and no imagination.

A few artists hit on something that grabs all of their focus, so they try it again, and again, each time reaching for something they haven’t quite achieved yet… and they slowly become craftsmen.

Some craftsmen after years of doing a thing start to see other possibilities in their forms and start modifying what they do to make them better to reach towards what their imaginations sees, improved lines and flow of spaces… and they slowly become artists.

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questions like “was Michelangelo an artist or a craftsman” do not arise. Artists of that era spent years practising by copying the same figure over and over (think of the market for concrete figures today, and the sales of pictures in frames at Walmart) for sale to the public. Thus he was trained like a craftsman, but, by his use of shading, composition, and superposition surpassed most of his contemporaries and landed him contracts that allowed him to show those skills at their best.. so he was an artist… and a craftsman.

Painting and sculpture and all of the “arts” used to be taught more like crafts are taught today. Guilds controlled training that would take years (decades) of learning techniques and copying things to be sold for public consumption. Some of the famous Painters had studios with dozens of apprentices doing the same painting over and over. Those were sold cheap to keep the doors open. Some of those apprentices became famous painters themselves, and some did not.

Today you don’t need a degree or training to call yourself a Painter or a Sculptor. It might help you learn a few techniques and make contacts to go to school or to apprentice. Nor is any training required to call yourself a Craftsman.

Yet even today crafts are not taught as they were, craft schools are few and far between. you get a smattering of introductions to several crafts. And a pat on the head. And the privilege of saying you went to this or that craft school. Then you are out on your own to do the 10 to 15 years of repetition it takes to really “Become”.

Apprenticeships are nearly nonexistent and most trade schools focus on plumbing and electrical work. I’m not saying a trade isn’t a craft, it is a craft. But not all of us are cracked up for working as tradesmen.

Carpentry is also craft (no one is teaching it), as is Pottery. Pottery is/(might also be) an art… every college that has an art dept. has pottery classes.

be well

 

(Wikipedia was used as a reference for this post)

I told you…

I was going to start making more chairs… it’s only taken me all summer to get a round tuit.

this is intended to end up as a tall stool, no back. it is an Amur Corkwood Tree slab I flattened last fall. The shape is somewhat dictated by the slab…

 

 

be well

Karl

PS It’s amazing how photos of real situations can lie.. it almost looks like my bench is neat and tidy..

reality however is not so pretty:

IMG_20191014_111702158

Golden thingys and making stuff

A word about “Design”

Design is easy, every time you put a pencil to paper you are designing something. every cut and every glue up and nail you have designed something. We do it every day without thinking about it.

Design is difficult, how do we get proportions exactly right? how to draw that or take that picture or write that book.

I’m not a very good writer, so I can’t really comment on designing something to be read.

In Designing drawings, illustrations, sculpture and furniture, there are some tools out there that can help you, but don’t let them enslave you.

One that has had recurring popularity for over 2000 years (or more) is the notion of the “golden section” or golden ratio or golden triangle or golden thingy. approximated at a ratio of 1:1.618 or just stated at 1.618. this notion is that all Natural things conform to this ratio therefore it is the most beautiful thingy in all of creation. if we use it to make a rectangle with the short side of x we get the long side of x times 1.618 which can divided or multiplied “ad infinitum”.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Golden_ratio

However I personally think that cabinets made to this proportion look too tall and narrow or short and long. I prefer the ratio of x times the square root of 2. Or; take a square, use the length of the diagonal to make it into a rectangle. it’s a little stouter. that is a ratio of 1:1.414 or 1.414.

But there is a great deal of debate about even using ANY ratio when designing.

http://www.fastcodesign.com/3044877/the-golden-ratio-designs-biggest-myth?utm_so

Many designers/artists make things they like and then try to Force the perception that the golden ratio or some other Ideal “fits”. And when you really look, you see many things that sort of almost fit the golden mean, but don’t really.

And it’s that, Which points out that every so often there are people who want to “prove” that math perfectly describes the world around us And that the world around us is “Perfect”, when it just isn’t so. And in reaction are the people who then want to prove it’s all a fraud, which is also not really true.

Is the “Golden Ratio” useful as a design tool? YES …Should you force all of your work to exactly match it? No

When I design a new furniture piece I sketch it out first trying to get the “right” proportions “by eye” I then go to a CAD program and draw it to proportions of 1.414 and again to 1.616 to see which I like better for this project. and sometimes I completely reject all of those proportions, but many times I go with the 1.414.

when designing, rules like the golden section can be useful, and rules are tools. As we learn more and more about “what works” we learn which tool to use for which job. Sometimes the golden section is “perfect” for what you are doing. Sometimes it’s not.

be well

K

Viking Stool making class.

HI ALL!

I running the 3 legged / Viking stool class at Ft. Mifflin next weekend (Sunday OCT 5, 2019) sign up by emailing me: kaisaerpren@gmail.com

tuition is $150

you will want to bring a hatchet and a drawknife (minimum) to class. I have a few loaners.

a Froe, (+froe club), iron wedges, spokeshave, and sloyd knife could also be useful.

time is getting short

be well

K

Tools of the trade 13: Saws

Others have written whole books about saws, tooth geometry, how to use, the various advantages of different types of saws… so instead of writing a book here I’ll tell you to go read a few.

Not even with a table saw can you get away with only having one type of blade. So you need to have a few Saws in your arsenal.

P1010012P1020602

 

You need a good crosscut saw. these are for cutting stock to length.

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You need a good rip saw, these are for cutting stock to width.

P1020601

Now, a lot of our stock sizing is done with splitting and hewing. So maybe a ripsaw isn’t as critical as having a crosscut saw. But you will eventually find a place where you want to cut a slab of wood in the rip direction and cannot spare the waste of splitting and hewing. So when you get a Ripsaw make sure it is a good one.

For cutting tenons you will want a crosscut saw, you could use your big one for cutting stock down, but you will find that having a smaller one, perhaps with a back stiffener, to be very handy for this… these are called Back saws.

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a coping saw is handy for small stuff and some curved cuts.

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A Turning saw is good for large curved cuts.

So is a Felly saw.

and for resawing slabs to make thinner boards a big ripping frame saw or just your ripsaw can be used.

and the saw nib is just a decoration.

be well

 

 

 

Classes

Hi all:

I have just gotten permission to hold classes at Ft. Mifflin!!

They have a nice shady grove we can use in good weather:

IMG_20190722_110059531

 

and an interesting grotto to use during bad weather:

IMG_20190722_105133033

this is inside the walls of the fort, literally in the walls. the back wall used to be the forts bread baking ovens. the wood stove works for heat..

I am planning on a first class sometime in October, it will be a 3 legged stool making class.

my stool for the class

stay tuned for more information!!

be well

K

apologies

Hi: to anyone looking here!

I keep not writing, 😉 it’s almost amazing how much I don’t write!

been busy with stuff, mostly trying to set up to get back into doing craft shows. making small stuff of the sort that sells, and big stuff to take along to “show off”: rolling pins, nostepinne, cutting boards vs chairs.

so I apologise to any followers looking for “new”content here.

I only write when I feel like writing. And next week I head out to Pennsic, so I won’t be writing then for another 2 weeks… I will post after Pennsic about which craft shows I am going to…

be well

The New Wood Renaissance

OR new greenwoodworking renaissance or the new green wood culture etc and so forth…

Some people will burden anything with a great weight of philosophy and/or religion…

And I have been thinking about this lately due to the shear number of people talking or writing about “it”.

As a greenwoodworker, and as a teacher, people I meet want to know where I stand and what my philosophy is. So I thought that it might behoove me to do some thinking and condense my ideas into something I can talk about without sounding like I have no idea.

 

About 25 years ago I took a chair making class (Make a Sack Back Chair with Mike Dunbar at the Windsor Institute). I already had these crazy notions that I wanted to make “real furniture” out of “real wood”. [did you know that furniture stores are legally required to call particleboard with a printed paper face “real wood” and “Solid Wood”?] What I really wanted was to make the sort of furniture that you might find in an antique shop. And Here “IT” was! A real chair, made the real way… the way the wood “wants” to be worked!

I think that one thought is what struck me and stuck with me through all of my years of fabricating with particle board, plywood and formica… that there was a way of working that used the wood to it’s best advantage instead of trying to force it into rectilinear mechanical perfection and precision. Roy Underhill talks about using wood’s weakness to reveal its strengths. And there is was, all in one chair

AND these methods of working are not constrained to only making chairs! You can make tables, chests, and indeed anything you want or need in your home with the methods and ideas contained in this thing we call “greenwoodworking”.

So for a first philosophical point I would declare:

  1. This is a more natural method of woodworking. The trees lend themselves to it more readily than most modern machine oriented woodworking.

Crosscutting with a saw and splitting with an axe or wedge is the primary method of taking wood from the log or branch and rendering it into useful pieces. Many Sp. of wood seem almost designed to be split. The oaks for example have these large medullary rays that radiate out from the pith. They make the wood extra strong in their direction of travel but extra weak parallel to them. If we place the wedges right on the rays the Oak splits nice and straight (as long as we split by halves) right along the rays. This sounds like weakness bound towards failure. But the piece you get this way, be it board or post stock, is far stronger in the way it will be used than sawn planks ever are. So our parts can be thinner and more flexible than sawn and kiln dried builders use.

 

People are creative creatures. We all want to be allowed to be makers. Most of our jobs/careers do not lend themselves to allowing any creativity. Yet making things is good for use. (See my post about Creativity vs Talent.)  A great amount of literature focuses on how creative efforts are good for your sense of wellbeing…

2. Expressing your Creativity is good for you!  Woodworking is an easy way to get to feel like you have accomplished something and express yourself.

 

Getting into woodworking with power tools is excessively expensive. Getting into woodworking with hand tools costs much less.  A good low end table saw will cost you either $500 or $2000.  A hand saw, drawknife, spokeshave, auger, hand plane, and more, can cost less than $200.

3.  This is a much less expensive way to get into woodworking.

Anyone can do some woodworking. Right now the popularity of spoon carving is skyrocketing… you need a small pruning saw, a hatchet, a straight carving knife and either a bent spoon knife or a gouge. Just 4 tools and a tree branch and you are good to go! And it doesn’t matter if your first ones are any good, most people need to practice for years before they get really good at it. But even your first attempt will give you that feeling of “This is something I did!” THAT is a feeling that you cannot buy in a store. It’s a feeling of self worth that is so elusive in most of our modern world.

4. And lastly, As a woodworker and as a woodworking teacher I don’t feel that it is my place to be teaching religion or philosophy.

I’m here to teach about wood, tools for working wood, and how to put them together safely. Oh I may veer off into discussions about the stewardship of the land and trees… it’s a subject that a lot of woodworkers feel very strongly about. But that isn’t spiritual or religious to me. It’s more like taking good care of yourself by eating right and exercising.

I love trees when they are alive!, there is something astounding about a tree. “I think that I shall never see a poem as lovely as a tree” (Joyce Kilmer)… and when they need to come down I and people like me are there to take the bones and make beautiful things from them. The Variety of lines and colors of the are always fascinating.

so: go get a stick and a knife and make something. making things is good for you.

be well