On Zest


Ellis Miller, a mechanic by profession, began carving as a hobby after making his own set of Monopoly tokens – tea kettle, flat iron, locomotive, hat and shoe. That led to a carved duck, which led to carved birds. Miller consulted John James Audubon’s “Birds of America” as a guide. Washington D.C. June 25, 1937. Photo by: Harris & Ewing. Photo courtesy of: Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, Harris & Ewing Collection, LC-H22- D-1767 [P&P].

“To lack experience in a handicraft is to lack experience in one of life’s good things. There are so many qualities craftsmanship can bring into the open which otherwise might remain hidden for a lifetime. Unexpected talent, unexpected ingenuity are revealed only when we begin to draw upon them, and, liberated from their dim lurking places within ourselves, they begin to live and grow. It can give heart to a man just to see his work taking shape. Many of us in the modern world have to live within our minds; many others are able to see only one small contribution made by their hands and to have no unique personal responsibility for the finished product. But we all need a unique personal responsibility for the things we do if we are to feel fully satisfied. The claims made upon us by craftsmanship, the opportunity it gives, not only insist that we shall assume this kind of responsibility but help to develop and enlarge it. When we see what we can do, the earth begins to grow solid beneath our feet. The timid ghost that used to hover within us, never quite sure, is put to flight. Something good and creative has come positively into the open, and life is infinitely the richer, our experience infinitely broader and more rewarding because of it.”

— Charles Hayward, The Woodworker magazine, March 1962

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3 Responses to On Zest

  1. I fear many crafts are being forgotten

  2. Salko Safic says:

    I love this post most of all posts.

  3. bluearkie says:

    Perhaps this speaks to the tendency for people of retirement age to turn to some sort of craft to create something that lives past our short time. For me, it is woodworking that allows me to build something that others will inherit and which connects us. It is for us to find that means of reaching through time to those not yet born.

    When I design a piece and bring it to life, I connect to all the craftsmen before me who created what I build upon to add my small drop to the ocean of humanity.

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