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let me know what you think

Dustin Clayton

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the other day I was reading the book Blue Highways by william least heat moon and I came across this quote.

"Because they cared more about adapting to the cosmos than to a society bereft of restraint, the shakers-like the indians-could love craft and yet never become materialists". Well that got me thinking, all of us on here love craft. However how many of us dont have an addiction to "stuff"? I know I'd find it pretty hard to go without this computer, or my car, or my C.D.s, or the really killer new light I just got for my bench, or a coffee before work in the morning, or... you get the idea.


Is this even a valid concern? is the materialism of "a society bereft of restraint" necesarily a nagative thing? (I'm fairly sure the forests, rivers, oceans, and mountains where we get the building blocks for all our stuff think that it is) If it is negative how does one go about maintaining their craft without becoming too bogged down with material attatchments?


I came across that quote the other day and I liked it so much I had to highlight it. The thought of craftspeople wholly devoted to their work yet not mired down with the "newer, bigger, better" mind-set made me smile. Thought I'd share it with you-all and get your opinion.


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Hmmm, I think it's a tough one. It was more or less this that killed me off jewelry part way through doing my degree in jewelry design. I had to do an essay on industrial design and the tenancy to design new models of things that incorporated one or two new functions. These functions weren't really necessary and the retooling cost so much - not just in direct product but the wasted old product etc etc. It was all about selling, not the usefulness of the product.


It made me question whether jewelry was a valid product to spend ones life producing. I ended up deciding that it had two functions. One was as a creative outlet for me, and the other was as an object of identity for the wearer. A means to express themselves in a medium that they weren't able to make themselves.


However the damage was done, and i don't really identify with jewelry anymore. I prefer items that have some purpose, that are also beautiful. This particularly with metalwork. I love the way much of the traditional Japanese metalwork has lovely designs and decorations which don't interfere with the function at all.


In fact it is the function that is the most important in the end i think, and the decoration added to it just makes it an item that can be cherished more. But it must work, and continue to work as long as possible. The extra time and effort spent on a piece to make it beautiful is justified or at least excusable if the lifespan of the item is long - the extra detailing just an extension of the artist/craftsperson/tradesperson's attention to detail and quality of the finished piece.


I don't know if that all holds water so to speak. but i know that i cherish tools and gadgets etc only if they are a real quality piece of work. I haven't any interest in cheap use-once type tools etc. they leave me cold and often annoyed.


I guess as a person who feels their worth by what they can create with their hands, tools and personal items that work well and aid this process or alternatively showcase this ability mean a lot to me.

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In the context of the above quote, one must remember that many Native American tribes were nomadic. They followed the food supply. It is hard to be too materialistic when 1). You have to pack up and move every so often, and 2). You have to fashion your own tools and medicines, etc. and still have time to be a productive member of the tribe. Craft knowlege was handed down through the generations and one would want to put an individual stamp on things for pride and for identification. The rise of industrialization led to materialism and leisure time for the masses. But we still have that primeval spirit in us to want to connect to our ancestors. The people on this site for the most part have the talent and ability to do it in a creative way.

By the way. Check out the life of William Scagel. http://www.stonecenterpiece.com/Scagel.pdf

He was one of the 1st modern knifemakers. He turned his back on society, but not on people. Everything was handmade and his shop was built by him and self powered. I think he catches that spirit that you write about.

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