Chris and John at Lost Art Press have shown the grace to lend me spot here on the blog, so allow me to introduce myself:
My name is Henrik Lützen, and I’m a MA-student in English Studies at the University of Copenhagen, Denmark. This spring I’m writing my thesis on the current craft revival, and why more people are drawn to hand tool woodworking especially. Oh, and I’m a knuckle-dragging hand tool neanderthal myself.
For this project I have a working thesis that the craft movement (among other things) is a response to three issues with contemporary society, which I have labeled:
Surface: That we need the perfect imperfection of a handmade surface to better relate to them, and that we appreciate seeing signs of both the item’s production and its maker in the surface (think of Krenov, Pye, Yanagi)
Community: That the crafts allows us to engage in three dialogues: With the past (through learning the traditional ways), with the present (online communities, courses, tool meets etc.) and with the future (through making heirlooms and through preserving tradition).
Practice: That the uncertainty of outcome and investment of effort inherent to hand tool woodworking shapes our experience of the world in a number of ways:
– We can transform a material = That is, we can influence the world.
– Wood or other materials have their own limitations and possibilities = That is, we live not in (digital) fantasy, but in material reality.
– Through persistence, effort and close observation, we may improve our skills = That is, our effort enhances our value to the world and matters to the world.
Some of you will possibly/probably hear echoes of Matthew Crawford or a certain anarchist book in this.
My point is that hand tool working is a deliberate alternative to the mainstream, and that it gives more sustainable and creatively fulfilling lives.
The real elephant in the room is, does the hand tool woodworking community have lessons for society as a whole? How do we use natural and human resources and fulfill our aspirations to be creative? This is something I hope to be able to explore further.
Now, such a thesis doesn’t exist in a vacuum: While I could just sample forums, this is the LAP blog: Home to the top tier hand tool aficionados, the anarchistic and the outspoken. So I need your help: I want to hear your own reasons for working with hand tools – in your own words.
Topics could include:
– What drew you to hand tool woodworking – and why do you do it?
– Do you consider sustainability with your work? Making furniture that lasts, reclaiming timber, using lasting, safe finishes?
– What do you feel you learn about yourself through craftsmanship?
– Have you considered doing this as a job – or a part-time job? And for those of you who have already, what led you to this path less trodden?
– Have you thought about the future of craft – or the value of craftsmanship to the world?
But these are only suggestions, if you have other ideas, write them down. Post them in the comment field or email them to me directly at this address email@example.com.
This is valuable stuff, and I will treat it as such:
You won’t be reduced to quantitative numbers (NO: X respondents expressed Y) – but I will anonymize your responses.
This won’t be published, but anyone can read an online copy of the (100+ pages) thesis when it is complete.
So share your thoughts and opinions with me. In return, I promise to give my very best effort.
Thank you – and stay sharp!