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New Craft - Part 3
Previous considerations of New Craft - the Why and the How - have uncovered what a complex topic this is. They don't fall neatly into boxes; they weave together and are co-dependent as we look at what an Artisan is made of.
In considering what New Artisans do, this last part has proven to be the biggest challenge. I started by wondering whether those in the professions can be artisans or whether a component of art is required.
I (fairly) quickly realised that labels are of little use and, probably worse, a distraction when it comes to what New Artisans do.
My thoughts crystallised as I watched a BBC programme about the restoration of Dumfries House; a John Adam House that was due to be sold, along with its contents, one of the best collections of original Chippendale furniture in the world. It attracted me as Artisans do not get much more artisan than Chippendale.
To cut a long story short, Prince Charles intervened via the Prince's Trust to restore the house, the furniture and the community of Cumnock, which was at its centre. Both house and community had fallen into disrepair following the decline of local industry in the wake of the closure of local mines and the industrial revolution era businesses they supported.
The programme is a wonderful example of the why and the how, as established craftspeople were brought in, who in turn recruited and trained apprentices over a ten-year period. What they did brought life back to Cumnock and provided the foundation for a self-sustaining community. The real revelation, though, was the part played by those whose "craft" sat outside conventional artisan labels in areas such as finance, administration, communication and other areas defined by the stuff of the MBA.
What became clear is that defining the artisan by sector is a fairly pointless exercise. Artisans are more defined by the Why? and the How? If it involves creativity, there is a space for the artisan.
If that is the case, then just what is the practice of a New Artisan?
The programme displayed all the qualities we discussed in the last two posts and added a further dimension - a demonstration of artisans in practice together. Here's what I noticed:
From the then Prince of Wales, to the trainees taken on as apprentices, to the architects brought in to advise, all displayed a determination to articulate an idea that was important to them for its potential to improve the world they live in.
Although there was clearly a management structure, what came across was a willingness to see the potential in the project and the people, to enable rather than direct, and to operate as a network more than a hierarchy.
An ongoing emergent conversation rather than a fixed plan. An evolving sketch, more than a predetermined plan.
Laughter, fun and relationships across the board.
Challenges as energy rather than problems.
Regardless of position, each individual showed a strong sense of agency. People owning their work.
The project was handled as as a dance rather than a march, from the pruning of a three-hundred-year-old Sycamore to the rebuilding 0f a walled garden.
There was a constant sense of teaching, vertically within specific skills and horizontally across them.
The element I noticed most was the ecosystem I referred to in last week's post, and will explore this idea further over the next month.
In summary, I think we can be artisans in any sector, with one important qualification; agency. We must have control over and responsibility for the work we do. I do not think we can craft our work to another's specifications. Being an artisan is far more than a mindset; it is agency in action. From accepting a brief to delivery, it is our work.
When we hand it over, it has our signature on it.
We have now spent a year exploring the idea of Artisans; what they look like, what they do and why they do it. It has been an exploration without a goal, but with an intent to understand whether the idea has something to contribute as the world of work changes quickly around us.
From your feedback, I think it has. Therefore, from the beginning of next year, I will move New Artisans from exploration to expedition and give it a goal; to offer people a path to enabling and empowering the artisan in themselves and others. To borrow from John Boyd, we will move from observation to orientation for those who wish to take part. I think it will be fun.
I will move this site over to substack, which offers more capabilities and resources. The transfer will take place week commencing 26th December, and I will post here all details before the transfer.
I will be opening up Zoom on Wednesday 7th, December at 6:00 pm UK time for our last monthly get-together before the break. I look forward to seeing all who can make it.
The Art of Quiet Disruption
On Wednesday 14th December at 6:00 pm Sue Heatherington will join us for a conversation about the power of Quiet Disruption. Those of us who know her understand the power of her work. For those who don't, I strongly recommend finding out.