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Design and workmanship  

In the years since 1945 there has been an enormous intensification of interest in Design. The word is everywhere. But there has been no corresponding interest in workmanship. Indeed there has been a decrease of interest in it.

This has not happened because the distinction between workmanship and design is a mere matter of terminology or pedantry. The distinction both in the mind of the designer and of the workman is clear. Design is what, for practical purposes, can be conveyed in words and by drawing: workmanship is what, for practical purposes, cannot. In practice the designer hopes the workmanship will be good, but the workman decides whether it shall be good or not. On the workman’s decision depends a great part of the quality of our environment.

But our environment is deteriorating. What threatens it most is not bad workmanship. Much workmanship outside of mass-production is appallingly bad and getting worse. The deterioration comes from the uniformity and poor range of qualities which mass-production is capable so far to produce. No depth, subtlety, overtones, variegation, diversity, or whatever you choose to call that which distinguishes the workmanship of a Stradivarius violin.

Why do we accept this as inevitable ? We made it so and we can unmake it. Unless workmanship comes to be understood and appreciated for the art it is, our environment will lose much of the quality it still retains. 

by David Pye (craftman and critic)

Pietro Elia Maddalena - Loc.Bagnano 135 - 50052 Certaldo - Firenze - Italia