For the Masterless or In a World Where Everything is Awesome
There have been a few ideas/concepts that have been in the forefront of my thoughts over the past few months. I've touched on them just a little in the past. One of them is the runaway apprentice concept. I'd like to explore this idea and how it ties into social media and the information age. What does the concept mean in the current craft world. Some of what I see is a little troubling to me. I'm still thinking on it. Let me explain.
When I entered the world of green woodworking there was one book, at least, that had its place on my shelf. It was Drew Langsner's Country Woodcraft. This book shaped the way I was to view woodworking. The point of this is that at that time, we learned from books or magazine articles and, of course, each other. Another source of info that I still have, that is now lost to us, is the magazine titled Woodwork. It was a great magazine. There was an article about a pole lathe turner named Don Weber. It was mind blowing for me. At that time I had worked as a log home builder and was entering into the wooden boat world where I eventually worked on and off for a few years. So at that time I was learning from "masters" either on the job or through books and articles. Published material and face to face. At that time not just any one published their thoughts in print. There were no blogs, no Youtube, no Facebook or if there were it was not really the handcraft folks that were using it. So at that time the written word had a sort of vetting process.
Today anyone can write a blog, post photos and talk about what they are making. I struggle with this at times. For myself, I remember when I considered starting a blog. The pro's and con's etc....joining Facebook, creating my first website. My thoughts at the time were "who was I to write about this stuff?" At the time I still viewed myself as a journeyman, I still do in many ways. I've never been comfortable with a title of master, I don't use it. But, was the information I was presenting quality? Was it truth? It was a process sorting through how I felt about it. I still struggle with it, but in different ways today.
What I see now is a new generation of craft folk that grew up learning stuff from Youtube and blogs. In fact some of that stuff I wrote. Have you ever watched Youtube? There is all kinds of bullshit on it. Folks that need a few likes, regardless of the content. I've watched folks hack away through a 4 part series on how to carve one spoon....hours in total. For me, I question why even publish it for the world to see? With the missteps, dull tools, dry wood (with the pith in) and all. The answers are vast and most likely not even related to sharing the craft or skill. But this is the world we live in now. How are we to sort out the bad info from the good when we have no experience?
Modesty. Growing up in the midwest: this is a common trait. As conservative, quiet Scandinavians, we don't like talking about ourselves, especially without invitation to do so. Today this is not the case. The younger makers are trying to be legit to the world, whether they need to or not. It seems that some things can be missing in the process. Restraint and modesty.
This is a direct quote from me to a young blow hard, runaway apprentice type, when approached with some theory about a technique or tool. I don't remember the specifics. Asking "why's" when you don't have any experience just some ideas, gets statements like this....."you don't have enough experience to even have an opinion!" Yeah I know it's harsh. Funny thing is I was told this too. When I was young and fresh on the job, learning from masters. I had theories, I loved the idea of working in a boat shop. Mind you the key words....the idea of. Today most "apprentice" types would get angry and quit or some such if they heard a statement like that. When I was told that, I blushed, shut up, put my head down and did my job. This is something we rarely see happen today. For me, this is when the real teaching and learning began.
I'm thankful that I was told that. So maybe that's why I write this story. For those who are reading, for those who are learning masterless, it's a good thing to shut up and work. Get some experience before asking questions or coming up with theories. It does take lots of work to get an understanding, and when I say that I mean a way of looking at things more than answers. We all have to problem solve and work 'with' the wood, so most of the time its not knowing a clear absolute.. but a 'Way'. The Way of wood or the Way of birch, or the Way of bark. It's based on experience and not some fact read in a book or overheard.
The double edge to this is that I'm along for the ride, too. It's almost as if we are not valid if we don't have a youtube video or a Facebook page, website, etc...It proves in some way we are serious, bullshit or not. The question that lingers in my mind is "are we dumbing folks down". Today there are more awesome spoons in the world then there were 10 years ago. So many more great carvers, great designs, and cutting edge decorations, etc...But there are as equally, if not more, bad spoons, bad design, and shitty decorations posted all over the internet. There are also the folks lingering in the shadows cherry picking all the best and making direct copies and selling them, even though they are never really as good as the original makers whom they lifted the design from. How are folks to know the difference from the good or the bad? Does it even matter? Posting photos in a Facebook group and getting a few hundred likes, etc...We all know that the likes are brought about by a certain formula, a certain level of decoration and certain form. Some of the best spoons are subtle and work extremely well and just get a few likes on Facebook. The nature of craft or RealCraft.
Within the studio/contemporary craft world, yes, I read about that world as well, there is a growing concern that folks are too nice and too polite. There is a lot of shitty art and studio craft out there. Nobody says anything. They just talk behind the backs of those makers. The growth of good work is slow because of the lack of honest critique. Yeah I know, who then gets to decide what good is? Well....I'll go back to the quote from earlier.... "do you have enough experience to have an opinion?"
Hard line? Yes! But they are just words and thoughts. I may change my mind in a year to two....maybe.
Are folks forgetting the point in their quest for recognition, for validation while using the internet to promote their work? Are they showing off too soon? It's great to be proud of our work as we progress, don't get me wrong. But then again maybe for some folks it's not about the craft at all but something else, some internal need for a pat on the back.
I'm sorry that my blog is slowly turning into opinion filled pages, but I don't have any more how to videos, or articles. All I have left to share are my thoughts and opinions, unless you stop over and visit, then we can get to some of the real learning. Also take note, and for those who know me personally, I can play the devil's advocate to try to make a point or to get folks thinking. So don't take this to heart.
I really do believe that the more spoons the better, the more makers the better, regardless of if I think they are poor work or not.
Carve more, make more, earn an opinion.