Why We Make Things and Why It Matters: The Education of a Craftsman

Why We Make Things and Why It Matters: The Education of a Craftsman

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by Peter Korn

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In this philosophical reflection, Korn (Woodworking Basics), a long-time furniture maker who founded the non-profit Center for Furniture Craftsmanship, takes readers on a journey both spiritual and personal, recounting his life spent as a builder and teacher. Clearly, endless hours alone in the workshop have given him time to think; this introspective study alternates between biographical sequences and navel-gazing, endless questions related to craft and purpose, function and design, bubbling to the surface. As he states, "…creative effort is a process of challenging embedded narratives of belief in order to think the world into being for oneself, and that the work involved in doing so provides a wellspring of spiritual fulfillment." When talking about his personal growth—his attempts to start a business, his battles with cancer , his struggle to create a teaching space—Korn is straight-forward and engaging. When he delves into the more abstract and ephemeral notions, evoking the classic Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, the narrative loses both focus and intensity, becoming a hazy, meditative piece. Color photos. (Nov.)
Library Journal
Here, furniture maker Korn (Woodworking Basics: Mastering the Essentials of Craftsmanship) shifts from how-to guides to a more philosophical approach to woodcraft. Tracing his evolution as an artist, he chronicles his beginning with carpentry/early efforts, then describes his ownership of a storefront in New York City's Little Italy in the 1970s and his first solo show in 1981 at the Gross McCleaf Gallery in Philadelphia. Korn taught at Anderson Ranch in Colorado and eventually opened a school, the Center for Furniture Craftsmanship, in Rockport, ME. He discusses having cancer as a young man and describes its return when he was older and the impact it had on his life. This book documents Korn's personal philosophy, interweaves art and existence, and is based on a strong belief in his work. He mentions as influential Robert M. Pirsig's Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values, Richard Sennett's The Craftsman, and Matthew B. Crawford's Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry into the Value of Work, as well as other books that have explored similar territory. VERDICT An uplifting title for artisans, novice or skilled, who will benefit from the ideas of a kindred spirit.—Barbara Kundanis, Longmont P.L., CO

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Product Details

Godine, David R. Publishers, Inc.
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7.80(w) x 12.00(h) x 1.20(d)

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Why We Make Things and Why It Matters: The Education of a Craftsman 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
high_hackles More than 1 year ago
Peter Korn tells a concise tale of how he came to a life of crafting fine furniture and ultimately, teaching others how to do it. With lots of personal history and thoughtful reflection, the author weaves a non-linear tale of a vocation as craftsperson and his take on the greater ramifications for the purchaser of the work and our culture. While he hints at what aspects of woodworking hooked him, he gives too short shrift to details of the craft and how it sustained him through many difficulties in making a living doing it. His passion for the craft of making furniture by hand permeates the story, I would have liked more stories about his acquisition of the various skills necessary to get to the apex of his field. As a serious amateur, I would have valued his description of how his mentors supported his learning of specific skills like joinery and finishing. Perhaps his other books, focused on woodworking tools and techniques cover the basics, but may have missed the personal anecdotes of the learner. The book is true to its title, containing thoughtful ideas about how modern culture is affected by craftsmanship and how it captures it for posterity. Peter makes frequent references to crafters in ceramics and painting who share his passion for craft. If the reader is interested in the big picture view of hand made furniture production, including the business aspects of a successful career, this modest tome is a great start. Extremely well written and tightly focused on the essential aspects of the topic, it is a satisfying read.