I've been thinking about the nature of craftsmanship lately. Thinking and writing. I'm going to serialize my thoughts here over the next week and I hope you'll join me, in what I hope will be, a lively discussion about what it is to be a craftsman/person/woman. Please comment early and often, if you feel so compelled. Here is part one:
It's no mystery why the majority of people don't bother with, or even think about, craftsmanship. It's a difficult trip to take. It's a philosophy, and like most philosophies, it's hard to stick with one hundred percent of the time. You have to be ruthless with yourself in judging when and if something is good enough to leave the workshop, and that can be difficult. We long for a second opinion that would let us off the hook and just tell us when we're done. Most people would rather just succumb to mediocrity because A. craftsmanship is hard and B. because, honestly, there isn't much outside reward in it. In fact, in today's speed laden, break-neck, high-velocitopolis, craftsmanship is all but demonized. Slower and more careful, the craftsman is often accused of being "OCD" or anal retentive; of not knowing when the plateau of "good enough" has been reached. Not a very attractive thing to strive for if what you have to look forward to is scorn and derision.
A contributing factor to the devaluation of craftsmanship, I think, is that society (except for you, of course, dear reader) is no longer able to recognize it. We expect things to fall apart and when they do, we are happy to discard, rather than repair them. Planned obsolescence has conditioned us to revel in mediocrity and waste and if, heaven forbid, we do have to fix something, we have no idea where to start. We have grown accustomed to cheap replacements, shoddy work and instant gratification. Three things that craftsmen are not known for. So, if this is what society chooses to value, what's the point in pursuing the ideal of craftsmanship at all?
*Update - Call it coincidence or collective consciousness, I just found this article over at BoingBoing that speaks to this very subject.