“…we know that the human hand is a wonderful and exquisite instrument to be used in a hundred movements exacting delicacy, direction and force; every such movement is a cause of joy as it leads to the pleasure of execution and the triumph of success. We begin to understand this and make some effort to train the young in the deft handling of tools and the practice of handicrafts.”
~ Charlotte Mason An Essay Towards A Philosophy of Education
Humor me with a very short exercise. Wherever you are right now take a minute or two to physically copy this quote. If you have it, try a nice pen and paper or even a brush. If all you have is your phone just try it. Think about your hand as you form those words. Think about what each of those words means.
Now reflect – how did this exercise transform or transport you in that moment?
Now I’m going to jar you a bit with a different quote.
“I walked for hours and came to the realization that this was bigger than just losing a job. More important, I felt that in this work shakeup, my life story had been stripped away from me. My personal narrative – my sense of purpose and direction in the world – no longer made sense. I had spent so much time justifying my actions (and time spent as a slave to a computer monitor) with the rationale that I believed in the mission of our company. I tried to get back on track mentally by telling myself I’d get another job. I dusted off my resume – something I hadn’t needed to do in years – and just started at it. I reformatted and updated my experience, but after all the tweaks and sorts, something still wasn’t right. I kept questioning myself: What was I doing, really? No matter how I told my story, I realized, I couldn’t hide one glaring fact: The only thing I was qualified to do was to sit in front of a computer.”
~ David Lang Zero to Maker
I’m writing today about the importance of the modern Maker movement and it’s connection with craft. The act of making – it touches somehow the core of our humanity. An this act of making inside Maker culture is in many ways a complicated reaction against modern culture. That reaction against a mechanized culture is not something new – William Morris lead a whole group of artists to rebel against industrialization in the Arts and Crafts movement. As an aside that movement was both successful and unsuccessful – the beauty of the work in the Arts and Crafts movement was really only able to be enjoyed by the lower classes in industrialized knock offs.
In our culture there are many of us who feel much as Lang felt in the beginning of his story – purposeless and directionless – and there is something about the act of making that establishes identity. That’s what the term ‘Zero to Maker’ means in Maker culture. In the act of making you are transformed from being merely a consumer to being a Maker.
There are some other elements of Maker culture that are very interesting that we might talk about later – particularly the idea of open source and of shared tools and materials (that’s what a MakerSpace is).
For some, myself included, being a Maker or a craftsman is distinguished from being an artist. Making or crafting in Maker culture should serve two purposes – it should be something that is useful (the thing has a purpose after it has been made) or the thing that you make should help you understand how something works. My friend Quincy from MakerSpace Charlotte is serious about this kind of making – his passion is ‘Demystifying the world around us.’
So in addition to moving people from consumer to maker, the Maker culture is working to help us understand all of the electronic gadgets that surround us. Do you really know how a radio works? That phone that you carry around everywhere you go – what’s inside it?
So, yes, the idea of making – of craft – it’s important. Important enough that we should take it very seriously in the education of our children. Important enough that we should insist that it be in every curriculum. Important enough that we should purchase it with time.
So yesterday, when you were wondering why we were talking about weaving potholders in a series of posts about being a geek? This is why.
You’re probably not going to give a four year old a soldering iron but you wouldn’t hesitate to give him a potholder loom. But when he is old enough for that iron and sits in front of all those tiny pins of his arduino trying to carefully read a wiring diagram? Yeah, following all those weaving patterns – which color goes on which peg…it all begins to make sense.