The New Artisan Narrative
Finding Coherence in a Volatile World
I ended last week’s post with an observation.
We have choices to make. What are we prepared to give up or not do in order to find the time and resources to uncover and harness our own narrative when the consumer narrative of growth for its own sake that has us in search of identity through having, more than being, is clearly failing? What are we going to replace it with, and how do we do it?
It has been on my mind all week as I’ve talked to a good number of those for whom it is in active, though often subliminal, awareness. Carrying the question quietly but too busy in the day-to-day to let it surface.
In asking the question of myself, I’m aware of just how easy it is to get seduced into trying to talk to greater numbers of people, only to realise the price of that is increasing shallowness. In areas that require conversation, the benefit comes from paying attention and going deeper. Doing more with fewer people in order to explore and find the time and space to talk about it.
It also requires discipline of me. I enjoy reading widely, going where my interest takes me, and joining the dots. That, though, is only part of what I need to do in my self-selected role as curator. I also need to go narrow and deep in some of the areas that we have identified in order to bring fuel to those conversations. As a metaphor, my job is to bring “kindling” - the variety from which what is important emerges, and then “logs” as the conversation develops. There’s something here of Cal Newport’s idea of deep work and the importance of a rhythm. Too much spent deep narrows perspective; too much time on the surface avoids the depth from which insight and progress come.
In a spirit of continued experiment then, these posts will comprise two parts - a free “kindling” element of thoughts and ideas relating to what being a New Artisan involves, and a “logs” part for paid subscribers, where we get more into the how of what seems important. I’ll also experiment with “notes” - Substack’s new short-form platform that shows the promise of being a more thoughtful version of Twitter and also gives the ability to link to posts from other authors on this platform I have come to value. It’s new, and I have little experience with it, so it may be a little clunky at first, but I hope will be worth it. We’ll see.
It is fairly clear now that New Artisans are defined less by specific occupations and more by their relationship with the materials they use, the clients they serve, and the communities they are part of. They are defined not so much by their skills as by how they use those skills. They are defined in part by their relationship with their clients - they know each other, and what is done is part of a relationship more than a transaction. Words like integration, coherence, provenance, and connection sit easily in the New Artisan space. As we become more exposed to increasingly competent artificial intelligence, I think it matters. I believe New Artisans and their clients can have a fruitful and healthy relationship with AI as long as it is not being used to fool us into believing it is something else. “I made this” is a covenant with a client, not “I had this made”. We are authors of our work, not traders.
As we continue a journey that is changing on so many fronts, from the world of work to more existential issues like climate change, I have been reflecting on the journeys we need to make. From who we turn up as today to who we really are. From where we find ourselves today to where was want to be, and from what we do today to doing something that defines us, and which leaves a legacy of some form, something that, like some latter-day Kilroy, says, “I was here.”
All of these are topics we have touched on in the last fifteen months as we have explored this space. It’s time now to go deeper, and find ways of looking at how we might help each other turn ideas into action.
I don’t see this as linear. For a more detailed exploration, each post will relate to one of these ideas, and we’ll link them as we go. I’m going to start with “Where are we today”
References so far:
Deep Work. Cal Newport.
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