The Will and the Deed

Earl Gebhart (1876-1971), farmer in Preble County, Ohio

“It looks as though today we are at the beginning of a new era. Values are shifting and changing, in many ways coming nearer to an ancient order of things than once we would have thought possible. Work in farm and field has become once more of prime importance, so has the skill of the technician, the man with the trained hands. We are being compelled to live more realistically, to see money as of less importance than things, a token of barter of little worth unless there are the goods available for barter. We may feel indeed that the time is ripe for the revival of craftsmanship, for the craftsman can only be truly valued when things are truly valued, and when productive, creative work is put first in the scheme of things.

“We may feel that much of our old tradition of craftsmanship has been lost, that fine tradition which has been described as ‘the fearless, faithful, inherited energies that worked on and down from death to death, generation after generation.’ As a nation we flung it recklessly away, too pleased with our new prosperity to realise that we had flung away the baby with the bathwater and that it had been a very lusty child. Nowadays we can realise something of what we have lost, shocked into realisation by the prevalence of low standards of workmanship against which a robust, inherited tradition is the best kind of safeguard.

“Nevertheless, signs of revival are all about us. The need for good quality and design is entering more consciously into industry, and every effort is being made to interest the public in it. The public, that is to say, the purchaser, is in the last resort the judge, and as the general level of taste rises so will the quality of the goods that are offered to meet it. The woodworker, whether he be a home craftsman or professional cabinet maker, can be an influence all for the good. Any revival must ultimately depend upon the work of the individual and the more men there are turning out furniture of good quality and design, the more people are going to be influenced in the right direction. It must be remembered that although, as a nation, we have lost immeasurable, as individuals we have gained. The potential craftsman of today may indeed be out of touch with his traditional inheritance, but he has hopes and opportunities which his forbears never knew. Lose touch with it altogether he cannot because the instinct for creation is in every man’s blood. And if with fidelity and honesty of purpose he makes use of the wider opportunities which now every citizen takes for granted, then he will be among those who are helping to forge a new tradition in every way worthy of the old.”

— Charles Hayward, The Woodworker magazine, 1949

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8 Responses to The Will and the Deed

  1. Jason McSpadden says:

    I knew this was Hayward the moment I started reading but I resisted the temptation to scroll down for the credit before I was through taking in these powerful, truthful, and hopeful words. I hope this kind of “vision” never dies.

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  2. jglen490 says:

    Every generation has a revival of some sort – more out of need, than habit. I was two years old when Mr. Hayward published that; we are again in need of revival in so many ways.

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  3. Elanoymike says:

    I thought some, after seeing the picture of Earl Gebhart. About 1971, as a young man, I recall looking over the fence at a bunch or Red Duroc hogs. Thankfully, I didn’t go on to be a farmer. Just not my thing. But, I do have some amount of perspective of craftsmanship. Many blogs accentuate the lost art, the lost craftsmanship, and loss of “The old ways”. I do respect that. But also read the last part of Hayward’s article. (published 1949) There is a “new revival”. I believe, in many ways, today is a “New Golden Age” of craftsmanship. In the 1970’s Bob Taylor was just a youngster making guitars for fun and little profit. Now, he makes guitars that are extraordinary, in volume, of very high quality. Today, thousands, maybe tens of thousands, are making staked chairs, by hand. And some, perhaps many, are selling them for a living. Or giving them to their sons and daughters. And how many videos of making X-Y-Z are on youtube or other media. I just wanted to give a shout-out to the New, Golden Age of craftsmanship.

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  4. noravista says:

    Beautifully written. I couldn’t agree more with Mr. Hayward.

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  5. Jason Weigle says:

    Reblogged this on Searching for Community and commented:
    A 50 year old essay that is just as relevant today as it was after World War II. A great reminder of the cycles we are embedded in and the opportunities each cycle opens and closes.

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  6. avhb says:

    I know there’s been a lot of stuff on the boil, but I am still really really looking forward to the “Chips From The Chisel’ collection.

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