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

by Peter Korn


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In this moving account (and favorite of America's most famous woodworker, Nick Offerman), Peter Korn explores the nature and rewards of creative practice. We follow his search for meaning as an Ivy-educated child of the middle class who finds employment as a novice carpenter on Nantucket, transitions to self-employment as a designer/maker of fine furniture, takes a turn at teaching and administration at Colorado's Anderson Ranch Arts Center, and finally founds a school in Maine: the Center for Furniture Craftsmanship, an internationally respected, non-profit institution.

Through this beautiful exploration, Korn works to get at the "why" of craft, in particular, and at the satisfactions of creative work, in general - to understand their essential nature. How does the making of objects both reflect and refine our own identities? What is it about craft and creative work that makes them so rewarding? What are the natures of those rewards? How do the products of creative work inform society? In short, what does the process of making things reveal about ourselves? Korn draws on forty years of hands-on experience to answer these questions eloquently in this personal and revealing inquiry.

Peter Korn writes that his work as a furniture-maker tries to accomplish three goals: integrity, simplicity, and grace. Fortunately, these qualities are also what distinguish his writing. In this book, he gives the reader an almost tangible sense of what it takes to be a creative craftsman, a homo faber, a maker of things, which is one of the central elements of the human condition. But he does much more than that: he explores what the search for self and for belonging entails in our rapidly changing times. —Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

Peter Korn's brilliant new book resonates with me as a visual artist in a profound way. I share his passion for craft and admire his ability to take a plank of wood and fashion anything he sets his mind to. Throughout the centuries, furniture makers and painters have shared a set of belief systems centered on craft. The pleasure and calm that I get as a painter fashioning a complicated work from colored dirt on canvas is, I believe, the same pleasure and peace that Peter Korn and his students get as craftsmen. —Chuck Close

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781567925463
Publisher: Godine, David R. Publishers, Inc.
Publication date: 03/31/2015
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 176
Sales rank: 491,902
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.70(d)

About the Author

Peter Korn is the founder and Executive Director of the Center for Furniture Craftsmanship, a non-profit school in Rockport, Maine. A furniture maker since 1974, he is also the author of several how-to books, including the bestselling Woodworking Basics: Mastering the Essentials of Craftsmanship (Taunton Press, 2003). His furniture has been exhibited nationally in galleries and museums.

Table of Contents

Introduction 7

Chapter 1 A Shared Hunger 9

Chapter 2 Hammering Out a Vocation 15

Chapter 3 The Seductive Ideology of Craft 29

Chapter 4 Live from New York 37

Chapter 5 Heart, Head, and Hand 49

Chapter 6 Thinking With Things 57

Chapter 7 Exercising My Voice 69

Chapter 8 The Inward Migration of Truth 89

Chapter 9 Second Epiphany 97

Chapter 10 Mapping a Craftsman's Mind 107

Chapter 11 A Miracle at the Heart of the Ordinary 121

Chapter 12 Creating a School 127

Chapter 13 The Creative Cycle 147

Chapter 14 A Good Life 159

Endnotes 169

Selected Reading List 173

Index 175

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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.