Craftspersonhood: The Forging of Selfhood through Making

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This paper examines the unique structures of identity formation within the craftsperson/maker mindset and their relation to Western views of work and labor. The contemporary Maker Movement has its origins not only in the internet revolution, but also in the revival of handicraft during the last several economic recessions. Economic uncertainty drives people toward the ideals and practices of craft as a way to regain a sense of agency and control. One learns how to become an active participant in our material lives by making and maintaining the objects that surround us. This orientation toward craft has the potential to alter the practitioner's sense of self going forward. I will argue that the work-based nature of craft leads to a unique and positive sense of self that the assumed freedom of ‘art’ and intellectualized labor unwittingly discourages. Tacit mechanisms shape the craft mindset through emphasis on skill, mastery of materials, polymathic problem solving, and quality. Hannah Arendt’s notion of the vita activa and Martin Heidegger’s arguments on modern technology reveal the dynamics between physical and intellectual labor and how many have greatly misunderstood the ‘essence’ of the craftsperson’s work. Peter Dormer and Glenn Adamson’s analysis of the nature of craft demonstrate how these two lines of thought can be unified into one system of selfhood granting the greater sense of agency many seek without relying on an individualized sense of self. The Richard Sennett shows how this sense of self challenges the desire to liberate ourselves from labor via technology and poetic autonomy as seen in Franco Berardi’s Manifesto of Post-Futurism. Malcolm Gladwell's work on intuition examines the impact of this tacit craft mindset and the psychological mechanisms that drive it. This will allow Peter Korn’s first-hand account of his own craft practice to demonstrate this structure and its inherent points of resistance against today’s hyper-individualized and resultingly selfish ways of life. Throughout this paper, a clear emphasis on materiality as a profound source of embodied knowledge will be maintained to reveal craftspersonhood as a source of deep existential fulfillment and practical philosophy. Acknowledging and embracing our intrinsic materiality and all that it has to teach us is imperative in the face of a consumption-centric culture of excess and exploitation that looms over much of the West.
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Archival date: 2019-03-04
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