The makers of Make, the techie-geek D.I.Y. magazine featured in the Triennial, have a new publication out, now in its third issue, called Craft:. This hip and beautiful little zine got me thinking about the craft revolution, which has reinvigorated the lives of design professionals as well as the lives of a vast and passionate general public.
Magazines like Make, Craft:, and Readymade show people how to make things, but how much can they really convey about craft itself? True craft represents an embodied, lived skill, grounded in the person of the maker, that is acquired over a long period of time. All design activities demand this embodied experience. Even digital processes like writing code or editing images in Photoshop are craft-based skills. You can learn about them from a book or a tutorial, but ultimately, you have to try them, and try them again and again.
As a college-level design educator, I know that each time I follow students through the process of conceiving and producing a work of design, I’m helping them develop their craft. It’s an incremental task, however, and craft is one area where older people have an advantage over the young, because this embodied experience takes years to acquire. (The challenge for us is to keep up with tools that keep changing.)
I’ve come to realize that writing is a craft, too, no different at bottom from the crafts of cooking or sewing or typography. With experience, one learns that crafting a sentence will take a certain amount of time and effort. One can be hit with inspiration or insight (that part is art), but making it all work and flow and communicate requires working and reworking (that part is craft).