The Future is Handmade

“Masters don’t need to say they’re the masters—it’s obvious in the work.” 

Maikel Kuijpers studies craftsmanship.  This is my kind of thinking and one of the reasons I became so infatuated with material culture when I was a young anthropology student.  People who make for themselves, when that is the only option, don’t just create something that is “good enough,” or as a one-off when their livelihood depends on it.   Popular culture often equates primitive cultures as simple and easy whereas we know for a fact that our ancestors were highly-skilled crafters with expert knowledge in their given pursuits.

There are many highly skilled occupations, not just those involving hand crafting.  Many skills involve organization, thinking, or analysis and little hands-on, but that is something different.  What this is about is mind-body connection; learning and understanding deeply.

I know this isn’t just about primitive technology but has a real relevance to the things I’m interested in.  If you haven’t already, check out this short documentary (it’s 12 minutes well spent) and let me know what you think.  The film features interviews with several of the world’s leading experts on craftsmanship, and you get to look at the workmanship of a tailor, violin maker, ceramicist, winemaker, and even a barber.

There is an excellent article about Maikel Kuijpers on the Craftsmanship Quarterly blog liked below where I fist saw this film posted.

Enjoy, and do good things with purpose.

Gourd Bottom Bags and More

Stacey has been adding her art to the shop lately so I wanted to give her a bit of a promotion here on the blog.  Among other things, she produces meticulous and beautiful art, beaded bags, earrings, and fiber arts.  Here are her latest additions to the shop.

The smaller bag on the left is jute and the larger is hemp, both with braintanned buckskin trim stitched into a gourd bottom.  The darker color is a homemade American walnut dye.

Here is a small sampling of what she makes below.  I’m sure she will be adding more in the coming weeks.  Consider checking them out on Etsy and “favoriting” our shop.

Crochet felted Icelandic wool hand bags.

Brain tanned buckskin medicine bag.

Buckskin neck bag.

The Hardest Part of Learning to Sharpen

Wise words. Learning to really properly sharpen an edge tool by hand is an epiphany and makes wood and leatherworking a real joy.

The Literary Workshop Blog

The other day, I was teaching a friend to sharpen his plane iron, and it got me thinking about sharpening.  Of all the skills I have learned while working wood, sharpening has been the most life-changing. It started with chisels and plane irons, but then I began sharpening my kitchen knives and pocketknives.  I had no idea that steel could get so sharp!  It used to be that dull tools were merely inconvenient, but now I find a dull knife a heartbreaking disappointment.

I say this because I want to share a recent article on sharpening by Chris Schwarz, former editor at Popular Woodworking Magazine and current head of Lost Art Press.  In it, Schwarz reflects (well, more like pontificates) on how few woodworkers actually know how to sharpen an edge tool.  Even the some of the professionals who write for the big-name magazines often lack basic sharpening skills.  He…

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Art and Craft Fair

I would not have ever thought myself a craft fair kind of guy yet here we are…

A sneaky photo of the maker discovered this afternoon.

Last year, our local community center hosted an arts and craft fair as a way to bring local artisans together and raise money for public programs (art classes, GED education, computer skills, tax assistance, etc.).  Being new to the area we joined in last year and were invited back for a second go around last weekend.  It was a good cause and a way for us to make a little extra spending money for the holiday season.

Stacey’s jewelry, sewing, weaving, and holiday arts.

Times are tough and it seems that most people have little to spare on superfluous items this time of year.  Despite this, it was still a profitable venture and a portion of everyone’s proceeds went to a good cause.

Details…

Two very good outcomes from joining in this effort were:

  1. Forcing us to buckle down and finish a load of projects in a very short period and
  2. Putting us in touch with a lot of local makers we may not have met otherwise.

There are some very talented people out there and it is often difficult for them to show their work. Venues like this allow the small, part-time players like us to showcase some of what we do.  Now, as a primitive tech artist, I steered myself more toward items that were affordable and would appeal to the average person; especially someone looking for gifts appropriate for the holidays.  I even brought a few walnut cutting boards as they are fairly popular gifts.

Painters, printers, writers, jewelers, and even wonderful candy and jam makers were there and we a grateful for the opportunity to participate again this year.

I thought I’d share a few bench photos leading up to the fair.

Some New Leatherwork

There are some new projects coming off the bench.Here’s a new minimalist traveler’s wallet.  I’m still working through the design and construction process but like it so far. Simple three-pocket design; a vertical a horizontal card pocket  as well as a large one for bills.

A bucket purse made from an oil-tanned leather.  Welted and bound with thin harness-grade bark tanned leather with a heavier leather shoulder strap.

I try to put some sort of bling into projects.  This is a historic heart design was cut freehand and balances the antler toggle on the other side.

Fully lined with a batik print my daughter bought for a skirt.

Welted bottom.

‘We’re All Frauds’

If it takes five times, build it five times. I feel this sentiment almost everyday. I think that means we really care about what we do.

Lost Art Press

adam-bede-w

The book that became “Chairmaker’s Notebook” began as a chat with chairmakers Peter Galbert and Curtis Buchanan. We made a plan to produce a video of Curtis building a chair that would be accompanied by a pamphlet from Peter illustrating the construction details.

In the end, Curtis’s detailed videos ended up here. And Peter’s “pamphlet” became the best book on chairmaking I’ve ever read.

But that’s not why I remember that meeting with Peter and Curtis. Instead, I am continuously struck by something Curtis said to me in that cabin in Berea, Ky. Curtis began talking about teaching woodworking.

“We’re all not as good as people think we are,” he said. “We’re all frauds.”

This was Curtis Expletive Deleted Buchanan. A guy who has more skill than 10 magazine-grade woodworkers. And he was sitting before me explaining that – like all human beings – he has insecurities…

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Making a Spanish Guitar in the 21st Century

My friend Bob sent me a link to an excellent video documenting the construction of a Spanish (i.e. Classical) Guitar.  The man is obviously a real craftsman with a purpose-built shop and this is definitely not a one-off project.  If you are like me and like to see how things are made, this half hour video will more than fill the bill.  And there is a nice soundtrack to accompany the work.  Sit back and enjoy.

Have any of you made your own musical instrument?  Do you want to share the experience?

Live Well

“God gave us the gift of life; it is up to us to give ourselves the gift of living well.”
~Voltaire

Voltaire was on to something there.  Here is a very inspirational family making good in the wilds of Wisconsin.  I would love to see more as they sound like some truly genuine artisans and keep craftsmanship alive in this consumer era.

I want to continue being inspired by people like this with positive spirits and keeping an eye on the important things in life.  Feel free to submit links like this or comment if you have feeling about a handmade life.

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And don’t forget to check out their own web-page, photos, and blog by clicking the image below.

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A Level of Craftsmanship

A REAL BEAUTY!

Here is an overview of a most remarkable modern Vardo build by Greg Ryan.  Not only does it document an amazing build, it is a really well put together little film as well.  I wish I could hit this level of craftsmanship someday.  This is one that will really inspire the budding builder out there.