Why We Make Things and Why It Matters by Peter Korn 📖
These are my notes as read through Peter Korn's book Why We Make Things and Why It Matters.
- A concise, articulate, humane description of the pleasures of craftwork in the context of life
- In trying to fit Korn's descriptions of the pleasures of craftwork to my own experiences with software development, I'm reminded of The Pragmatic Programmer
- Korn is to craft and furniture making what Wendell Berry is to community and farming
- "My consciousness comes to inhabit the tip of the knife and the tooth of the saw, so I am not only in the world, but somehow of the world … There is a deep centeredness in trusting one's hands, mind, and imagination to work as a single, well-tuned instrument, a centeredness that touches upon the very essence of fulfillment."
- "learning to do something well for its own sake"
- "It is not the hope of achieving game or making money that drives them: rather, it is the opportunity to do the work they enjoy doing." Korn comments this as idealistic, but with an element of truth
- "the intrinsic pleasure of creative work derived from a mental phenomenon he calls flow"
- 9 elements of flow
- autotelic –> an act worth doing for its own sake
- "the maker sees the immediate effect of every step he takes along the way"
- "craft is a process of continuous feedback"
- "… craftsmanship must reckon with the infallible judgement of reality, where one's failures or shortcomings cannot be interpreted away"
- stated goal: "create furniture that manifested simplicity, integrity and grace"
- "furniture…is more than an object of contemplation; it is a prescription for the life to be lived around it"
- "We are beings for whom objects have spiritual weight … A single piece of furniture articulates a point of view about life on many levels"
- "Consumerism promises spiritual and emotional fulfillment through acquisition" <– Reminds me of Berry
- "… the physical details of [a crafted object] speak to a more ancient materialism … the belief that objects have mana: that the miraculous power to provide spiritual sustenance resides in the object itself, not in the achievement of ownership"
- "… the making of the desk was a multilayered process of thinking with things."
- "To the human mind, where thoughts spring up unheralded only to vanish just as capriciously …"
- "… each completed work becomes a springboard for the genesis of its successors" <– this notion of an objective record reminds me of a quote from page 56 re craft enabling objective assessment of a worker's skill by virtue of the tangible objects produced
- "The pleasure I experience when the coffee table in our living room catches my eye is a good example of the way that an object functions as a thought marker"
- "I built [the table] … as a private homage to Alan Peters …"
- "Simplicity, fluting, and the decorative use of end grain were signature elements of Alan Peter's design vocabulary" <– What's my "design vocabulary"? Do I emulate others' vocabularies? Would it be fair to equate vocabulary with toolkit? Perhaps the former includes "soft" tools, like experiences and inspirations, while the latter typically refers to "hard" tools, like a chisel or text editor.
- "When I am making furniture, I think with things; when I am writing, I think with words"
- "We are socially embraided to such an extent that the architecture of our thoughts is a communal construction"
- "What gets embedded in the work are not only questions and ideas of which the maker is conscious, but also attitudes and hypotheses of which he remains unaware"
- "… on the downside, only one idea can be presented at a time…[the craftsman's] picture is worth the proverbial thousand words"
- all makers go "through a similar process of thinking with things…to discover, embody, and communicate a vision of what matters"
- "One's sense of self is…strongly influenced by external circumstances, especially the beliefs of other people" <– reminds me of the process of differentiating my identity from the identities of those around me in childhood
- "making is a lifelong project of self-construction and self-determination" reminds me of the notions of "career" in the workplace and "hero's journey" in life
- "We think w materials and objects at least as much as we think with words, perhaps far more" reminds me of shamanism's use of animals and spirits to convey information
- "…all my life desires had been parked down to one, which was to be without pain or discomfort, and there on the beach my wish was fulfilled. I wanted for nothing."
- "my work needed a distinctive, compelling look…Otherwise, I didn't see how I was going to sell enough work, and at high enough prices, to provide a sustainable living"
- Is there an equivalent of negative space for software?
- Is there an equivalent of a solo show equivalent for software? Hackweek poster sessions come close
- Is there an equivalent of the Anderson arts ranch for software? Woodworking may have a more solitary culture
- Is there a "language of formal criticism" as in the arts for software development?
- "integrate their self-absorbed passion for making with the necessity of earning a living and the demands of maintaining a relationship"
- Reiteration of objective: simplicity, integrity, grace
- "working in isolation doesn't foster the substantial engagement with community it takes to cultivate a local market"