A personal exercise in Joining Dots
Life is a series of next steps. As with a series of dots, we can only make sense of them by looking back, much as we would like to see a clear path in front of us.
I started New Artisans at the beginning of 2022 as a “container’ for ideas about our relationship with craft in an age of increasing automation. It has not been a “project” with a goal, as much as a gentle inquiry.
The photograph at the heading is one I took a few years ago on an early morning balloon trip in my “ballooning period”. Two crews, over Curbar Edge near my home, encountering mist.
Balloons and mist are not a good combination because we have limited control of direction, limited fuel, and have to land at some point, so being able to see the ground is more than useful.
It reminds me of David Whyte’s “Crossing the Unknown Sea”, a Pilgrimage of Identity”. When it comes to work, we are all pilgrims.
As New Artisans, we are part artists, part workers. Work is necessary for most of us, but how we do it is a choice and an expression of who we are, and as such, it matters. We can talk easily about agency and “wellness” as though they are available as courses or perks.
They’re not, of course; they’re the product of risk, determination and persistence, imprinting our signature on the work we do.
James Taylor’s lyrics to Mill Worker (in part)
Millwork ain't easy
Millwork ain't hard
Millwork, it ain't nothing
But an awful boring job
I'm waiting for a daydream
To take me through the morning
And put me in my coffee break
Where I can have a sandwich
Then it's me and my machine
For the rest of the morning
For the rest of the afternoon
And the rest of my life…
Oh, may I work the mills
Just as long as I am able
And never meet the man
Whose name is on the label
James Taylor. Millworker,©Country Road Music
Most of us work for organisations that want their own name or brand on the label.
Like most of us, I spent years working for somebody else’s label, both as an employee and later as a consultant/coach/contractor, helping modern-day mill workers, many very senior, perform. It took me until well into my fifties to leave the artificial security of the label behind me.
My chosen work, at this stage, is to help people find the artisan in themselves and introduce them to other artisans. Some may be full-time, the equivalent of full-time Craftspeople. Most, though, will still be apprentices and journeymen (sic) looking to find ways of signing their work and an opportunity to put their own name on the label of something that matters to them.
I found Alan’s 13 questions important and valuable in refining what I’ve learned and clarifying what I do next. In order to be better able to answer Alan’s questions in the event of a surprise audit, I have determined:
I cannot work with both organisations and individuals. The dissonances are too great. I choose individuals, on their own terms, in their own interest, without compromise.
Finding and enabling our artisan works best in small, dedicated, long-term groups.
Whilst the work I do with small groups does not scale, its effects might, rippling out into and through other groups as people develop and practice their own craft. I want to focus on how to do that more effectively.
It’s hard to do deep work in noisy places, so much less LinkedIn and far more Substack and small groups work. LinkedIn is a market stall; Substack is a workshop and suits me better.
The world out there is full of consumers, commentators and creators. I want to work with thoughtful commentators and creators. Doing more of what matters with fewer people.
I’m fortunate in that I am past the point where I am reliant on a regular monthly income. That means that I can afford to experiment with how to do this work and perhaps leave a trail for those who want to put their own name on the label.
The rest of August will see me making the transition.
I look forward to those who can make it on Wednesday, learning of your own reactions to Alan’s questions and discussing what we’ve noticed with him. Also, a huge thank you to him for letting me use his material.
Until then, have a great weekend.
Diary Date: 9th August, 6:00 pm UK
Alan Moore, the originator of the questions I have been pondering these last couple of weeks, will join us on Zoom to consider our reactions, questions and thoughts on how we apply them to our own practices and businesses.
Open to Subscribers only. Limited to 18 participants. Not to be missed.