Happening 3 Introduction:
On the evening of October 29, 2020 eight of us craftspeople met at 136 Seneca St for Happening 3: Evolution of the Craftsperson.
The social-interpreter/multimedia-artist/ writer
Happening 3 Summary:
I began introducing my research to the locomotive/multimedia-artist/architectural-designer, the community-builder/architectural-designer/carpenter, and the spiritual-theorist/architectural-designer who had never participated before that night. I proposed the idea of needing a new word to define this very special kind of craftsperson that I think we all are. The word “opificer” was mentioned which was traditionally used in a theological context, but is still interesting in our current state of the world. The community-builder/architectural-designer/carpenter mentioned that we no longer live in a society guided by religion, and the spiritual-theorist/architectural-designer added that we now have to create our own guiding values. The teacher/graphic-designer/music-producer then mentioned that craftsperson is great, because it actually calls the physical act of crafting to attention. The locomotive/multimedia-artist/architectural-designer said the critique of “craftsperson” is that it is associated with the hobbyist/DIY maker.
The teacher/graphic-designer/music-producer proposed that we use the word craftsperson to describe ourselves and clearly state what other interpretations that we are not. Or, rather, define what we are.
We waited for the last guest to arrive while we discussed ideas about vocabulary terms and ways of presenting our idea of the craftsperson through language. The textile-artist/fashion-designer/carpenter proposed that I create a craftsperson’s dictionary which redefines typically transitive terms to be focused in our understanding and used of those words (maybe symbols as well).
The teacher/graphic-designer/music-producer added that maybe just the new wave of gender inclusivity (craftsperson instead of craftsman) could be the thing to refresh society’s interpretation of the word Craftsperson.
The community-builder/architectural-designer/carpenter then asked if the process or the product was more important? The process.
The textile-artist/fashion-designer/carpenter then used Four Tet as an example, he describes his work as archival of a period of his life and that his work is what grounds him in his world. The locomotive/multimedia-artist/architectural-designer added that objects have memory embedded into them. The spiritual-theorist/architectural-designer said that items he creates in his own life help him maintain contact with his own personality, the teacher/graphic-designer/music-producer said that it is because our work solidifies our ideas.
The social-interpreter/multimedia-artist/ writer showed up just as the teacher/graphic-designer/music-producer left (they had to leave early). More introductions and small talk carried on until we sat down around the portable heater.
I began the structured conversation by presenting an idea about defining the craftsperson through a set of minimum requirements or guidelines in order to be a member of this speculative community of craftspeople. The first polemic that I proposed was that this type of craftsperson must work through intuitive methods of operation and derive concept from post rationalization, as opposed to working with a predefined concept as a generator/driver of work.
The textile-artist/fashion-designer/carpenter spoke about their own work-life dichotomy, saying that from these discussions they realized that there can be a separation. They use art as expression in their pass time. Then describing their work as being an experiment of material and technique, while always attempting to do something new. Then I added that regardless of an idea, there still is an overarching concept which guides our work; we are constantly developing our styles through our work, and our styles are directly related to the development of our selves.
The locomotive/multimedia-artist/architectural-designer disagreed with the use of the word intuition as an opposition to concept. They think intuition is used to describe ideas that we cannot explain, adding that we are all consequences of our environments and that our work directly responds to our personal experiences and memories. They then explained that without knowledge and skill one can still start-- calling back to the previous discussion of Craftsperson versus DIY-Person—saying that at some point we are all the DIY-Person. They added that we should acknowledge this lack of knowledge and skill during the DIY stage of the development as the way of entering the world of the Craftsperson.
The textile-artist/fashion-designer/carpenter then said that they use the word intuition to describe their process in lieu of an explanation of that work which he typically prefers not to explain, maybe because he needs to better understand it. The locomotive/multimedia-artist/architectural-designer told the textile-artist/fashion-designer/carpenter that the way they were describing their work was a disservice to it.
The community-builder/architectural-designer/carpenter added that they don’t disagree completely with my initial statement. They think intuition can be the start point, but one cannot avoid the development of a concept.
I then began to describe my work through some of my disagreements; anti-standardization, anti-gentrification, anti-mass production, anti-homogeny, etc. Then I proposed rather than intuition, we can label it a response; to material, tools, environment, people, etc.…
The social-interpreter/multimedia-artist/ writer then called back to redefining the craftsperson. They thought this would then make our group exclusive in way which contradicts our ideas on interdisciplinary workflow. They also added that maybe we can describe the craftsperson as a verb.
The spiritual-theorist/architectural-designer’s head was swimming, as they tried to define themself as a craftsperson. Just then, I asked them “how do you define yourself as a craftsperson?” They responded saying that their agency in creation is rooted in their attention to smaller scales-- like macro photography-- where they always find a common fractal quality.
I then related this idea of a fundamental quality which links all things to my community cosmos diagram. Which also called back to the most fundamental building block of my ideologies, and expressed that defining that term was almost impossible. Then the locomotive/multimedia-artist/architectural-designer added that my difficulty was because the answer isn’t one term, it is a description. They then asked the project-manager/electrical-engineer/systems-manager the same question. They then spoke of systems, like mass production, that are ingrained into our culture to the point where combating them becomes self-destructive. Explaining that we can only correct the system by working through it. We cannot fight the system, but we can work through it, intentionally, to change it.
The social-interpreter/multimedia-artist/ writer said they were the inspiration of their own work, whether it be just a thought or a feeling. They added that it also depends on a what medium they are using. They often contrast visual work against writing, one being more responsive and the other being more conceptually driven. But, overall, their work is most often driven by their individual stance on how society should be organized. They then summed it all up with one core theme which they described as communication.
The textile-artist/fashion-designer/carpenter then asked the locomotive/multimedia-artist/architectural-designer the question. They explained that they have always attempted to work across disciplines. They use qualities from outside disciplines to improve the work within their own primary discipline, architecture. They pride themself on their ability to work through their own ignorance in foreign disciplines and still successfully draw from it to improve the work in the end. They admitted to being more on the artist end of the architecture spectrum.
I then spoke of another defining trait of our Craftsperson. They must believe in the freedom of work between disciplines, and oppose any restrictions to that interdisciplinary workflow. The locomotive/multimedia-artist/architectural-designer then described it as a mindset, and we began talking about false display of knowledge. The spiritual-theorist/architectural-designer added that honesty of ignorance opens up opportunity for learning. Embracement of the DIY stage, of our ignorance in foreign disciplines, creates opportunity for prosperity in them.
The spiritual-theorist/architectural-designer then spoke of this interdisciplinary desire as potential, and that open mindedness allows for the connection to these many different worlds of making. The degree to which everything is interdependent and interrelated is indefinite. The difference is in the material or method, but the common dominator is the Craftsperson.
I then spoke of a few examples where people had described the idea of multiple selves to me, and I then questioned how to reach the one true self. I asked if that was the goal? What is that which transverses the various selves? The spiritual-theorist/architectural-designer said that the defining restrictions we place on ourselves as a society are necessary for form, communication, and understanding. The community-builder/architectural-designer/carpenter then described themself as a community builder working between the layman and the expert tradesperson, and expressing that they desire to instill ideas or knowledge into people through their work. The spiritual-theorist/architectural-designer then talked about how we cannot force others to see the personal value we instill into our work, adding that calling oneself a craftsperson is the signifier to others that they should view one’s work in a certain way.
The social-interpreter/multimedia-artist/ writer then began to describe themself as a liaison of people, and that one of their mediums of work is a type of sociology which they are constantly investigating. Through their learned knowledge, they can then begin to help people who wouldn’t normally be able to communicate and understand each other. Much like liberals and conservatives in their political, social, and economic views.
The locomotive/multimedia-artist/architectural-designer then pushed me to talk about my stance as a Craftsperson. I then used the Vienna Secession as an example of a community which was responding to their society through very particular social, political, or economic views. I then began to describe my ideal community as being one which is inclusive of all classes—social, economic, and disciplinary classes. I then spoke of how some of my ideals are hypocritical at their most extreme end of the spectrum, and used my anti-standardization views as an example; because if everything was unique, nothing would be unique. The development communities, which I have grown to dislike so very much, are the things to which I compare the things I think are beautiful. I used this idea to represent a particular balance or tension in life which for me is where beauty is found.
The locomotive/multimedia-artist/architectural-designer then related this idea of tension to our current conversation, they said we need more tension within the group. He thinks the conversation is very inaccessible, but that this group of people all seem to be very open-minded and accepting.
I then brought up one topic that we tend to always debate about which the locomotive/multimedia-artist/architectural-designer had not yet heard, the balance of work and life. Saying that everyone agrees that the most desirable way of living would be if your passion could sustain you economically without losing its value in the process. But, how do you get there? The textile-artist/fashion-designer/carpenter wants to make money through avenues outside of their passion, in order to avoid the idea of money dementing it. Where the social-interpreter/multimedia-artist/ writer thinks it is possible to find success through their passion, all one needs is a belief which over powers the evils of money. From the top down, or from the bottom up?
The spiritual-theorist/architectural-designer then expressed that he is not very involved in any community, and he acknowledges that he is lacking because of that. But until then, he is working on himself so that when he joins a community he can contribute himself most effectively. Kalyn then proposed an idea about taking a walk on a path someone else has already walked to gain experience which can then be returned to your end goal.
The social-interpreter/multimedia-artist/writer also stated that their true passion is for music, and that the one time they used music to make money they severely disliked it and would never do it again. Although, they still wanted to make money through creative means, so that they can continue to express their ideas. This is actually the same approach the textile-artist/fashion-designer/carpenter has taken. Neither of them wants to dement their passions with the burdens of economy. So, they find economic sustainability through other creative means; one as a carpenter and one as a graphic designer.
The social-interpreter/multimedia-artist/writer began to talk about how much they enjoyed working at Assembly House 150 because working with their hands left physical evidence of their labor, and indirectly exercised their body which made them feel healthy.
The community-builder/architectural-designer/carpenter asked how does one judge whether or not a member of the community is working intuitively. I responded that it doesn’t matter, because I was only trying to fuel debate. Which retroactively speaking, is not true. I don’t think it is a requirement, but it is often a defining trait.
I then began to read off the rest of my “list”. Talking about technical, spiritual, and social aspects of the craftsperson.
They must have skill and knowledge which allows them to experiment and push the boundaries of processes and products in that discipline. I used the table legs an example. The social-interpreter/multimedia-artist/ writer questioned the methods as the result of a mistake, and I responded that without my experience in the craft I would have never been able to transform that mistake and then capitalize on it. I then connected this idea to the choice and use of materials. Having the ability to transform a low-quality object or material into a high-quality product is only allowed by this knowledge and skill. Our craftsperson primarily uses existing objects or reused materials because we live in a post-industrial/consumer driven world which provides us with an excess of inspiration and resources.
Then I began to talk about the requirement to work intuitively, and describing it as responsive rather than intuitive. The textile-artist/fashion-designer/carpenter questioned the definition of intuition, which reinforced the idea of responsive rather than intuitive. The social-interpreter/multimedia-artist/ writer disagreed with intuitionally driven means being the only method of making, which I agreed with.
The project-manager/electrical-engineer/systems-manager expressed having difficulties defining themself, they don’t want to be defined as a DIY-Person or Craftsperson. Definitions are restricting, but they allow for communication and communal understanding. The social-interpreter/multimedia-artist/writer agreed that they would not define themself as a craftsperson, but instead they would identify as an artist (even though it might still not be accurate). The locomotive/multimedia-artist/architectural-designer then added that the titles are our way of communicating to other people, and that the labels change depending on who we are communicating with. I then expressed that throughout my whole life I have been opposed to defining things because of how it restricts me.
The community-builder/architectural-designer/carpenter then called back to using verbs to describe ourselves, identifying as a thinker and a maker.
The project-manager/electrical-engineer/systems-manager expressed that they have difficulty communicating because of over generalization, and added that we need specificity to be able to communicate with one another. I added that the over specification is how certain stereotypes or ideologies have taken physical form in our society. The project-manager/electrical-engineer/systems-manager said we are all co-workers, so to speak. The social-interpreter/multimedia-artist/ writer then added that hierarchy in social structures is a joke, using a quarterback without their team as an analogy. The locomotive/multimedia-artist/architectural-designer added that in practice, for this idea to work, everyone would have to be on the same page. If it is not clear who has what skills, then communication breaks down. The locomotive/multimedia-artist/architectural-designer talked about real truth coming from other people. Making an example about how, in the past, their thesis advisors pointed out that their work is always about people and motion, so they latched onto that and kept moving forward.
The community-builder/architectural-designer/carpenter then asked if progress and growth was always a goal in these groups that I have studied, and I responded “yes, but everything before industrialization, no.” Sparking a conversation about various guilds systems and their particular ways of life. The social-interpreter/multimedia-artist/ writer then asked me what god was to the Shakers, and I responded that their community was their god. They then added that they were raised Catholic, but they didn’t believe in god. As they got older, they became agnostic, and eventually they began to believe that god is everything. So now they try to live with a positive mindset while understanding that everything is interconnected.
Then I asked the locomotive/multimedia-artist/architectural-designer what god was to them. They believe that we are all connected to some superior philosophy about interconnectivity. They said our actions on a small scale have the possibility to multiply and effect other things, which is why we give humanistic characteristics to objects.
I said that my work is my god, it is how I anchor myself in my world. The locomotive/multimedia-artist/architectural-designer added that he never fully removed himself from how he was brought up (Christian). The textile-artist/fashion-designer/carpenter related to both the social-interpreter/multimedia-artist/ writer and the locomotive/multimedia-artist/architectural-designer, having been raised Catholic, but now as they judge the morality of his actions by how they think his grandfather would have judged them.
I then tried to use a metaphor about belief systems, we cannot condemn prejudice people because of what they believe, but we can try to make them see another perspective. Their belief is the result of the social imaginary in which they were raised. We cannot force them to change, we have to understand them and find a way to help them see past their ingrained beliefs.
The locomotive/multimedia-artist/architectural-designer said that response from other people is typically what judges the type of information revealed in any collective discussion. Open-mindedness is conducive of communication and understanding, through it progress can be achieved.
The social-interpreter/multimedia-artist/writer added that a majority of our culture has no spiritual faith.
The locomotive/multimedia-artist/architectural-designer then called back to an idea about inclusivity in our speculative community, they asked how I thought we could be inclusive. I expressed that it is really difficult, but what I can do is try to be understanding of people’s beliefs and life experiences. In the end, the best method of inclusion I could come up with is through communication and outreach into my city.
The social-interpreter/multimedia-artist/ writer then admitted his disdain for white men. The spiritual-theorist/architectural-designer related to this idea of self-hatred because of other’s judgment due to stereotypes. The social-interpreter/multimedia-artist/ writer said, without blame for anyone else, that they often feel obliged to prove themselves not a part of that stereotype. The locomotive/multimedia-artist/architectural-designer then made an example about organization which target minorities because of dictations from funding resources. They think this is not the best approach to inclusivity. This targeting happens at universities, non-for-profits, and other organizations. This has become a narrative which contradicts the original goal to be. Rather than be inclusive based on race or economic class, we can be inclusive based on skill.
The project-manager/electrical-engineer/systems-manager shared their thoughts about god. They believe god is everything; the physical, the non-physical, everything. They related this theory to the foundational atoms which compose everything from bricks to humans. The underlying composition of everything is the same. No matter how deep we go, there is uncertainty. No matter how deep we go, we cannot define certainty, and that is the leap of faith. We cannot define, but we can admit that we do not know.
With that, we concluded the conversation saying our goodbyes and thanks.