Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Craftsmanship: an archaic notion?

(thanks to Mike Torres whose picture I stole!)

What has happened to appreciation for craftsmanship in our modern society? Machines and computers aid productivity, and eliminate or minimize the human factor. Driven by a thirst for increased profit, labor is farmed out to third world countries for pennies on the dollar. By breaking craftsmanship down into menial sub-operations carried out by often underage and largely underpaid foreign minions, it costs almost nothing, and society is taught to value it accordingly.

In the industrialized nations, kids grow up playing with x-box and i-phones, a lot of 'em don't even know how to build a box-kite, or cut a dovetail or chisel a mortise - the stuff once learned in shop class, but they don't have shop class anymore at most schools, do they? For a new generation, digital entertainment has supplanted the now antiquated manual entertainment of creating physical things from human imagination. Perfection is an ideal representing the absence of the flaws of the human touch.

People can't appreciate craftsmanship when they have no real personal experience with the process. I once took a tour of Greene and Greene's Gamble House in Pasadena - tourists stood in the midst of this testament to the inspirational and uplifting power of human craftsmanship...playing with their cell phones.

Because there is very little that we touch in our modern world that is made by the hands of people in our community, we no longer need to think of what is fair for the craftsman - he is, after all, not one of us.

Often, when I speak of this, it makes people uncomfortable (and you know, if you don't like the message... kill the messenger! LOL) and they just get upset and tell me this is progress, accept it, put up and shut up, bla bla bla, which makes me wonder why they react so negatively? Really, isn't the whole issue just a sidebar to the "bigger picture" issues of standardization and mechanization and computerization as tools utilized by the powers-that-be to control the education, socialization, and interaction of human society? If you can't see that, then you won't understand whats happening to the surfboard industry anyway.

I chose to make my living with my hands (in my case, as a self-employed contractor / carpenter / remodeler). I've been watching this whole thing unfold for decades - engineered roof systems built in a factory using machinery and unskilled labor rather than on the jobsite with skilled labor (as a framer for many years, I learned the esoteric art of calculating and cutting complex roof structures, a now irrelevant skill), the cnc takeover of the cabinetry (and furniture) industry, etc. etc.

Of course, the whole process began well before me. Like maybe the late 1700's, with the advent of the first industrial revolution, and the beginning of mechanized production. Oh, and plenty of people have decried the dehumanization of this "modernization" of the creative process, like William Morris, John Ruskin, Gustav Stickley, the brothers Greene, to cite just a few. To what avail? The arguments against them have changed little. Backed by the Big Money, the corporatization of the creative process and the elimination of the "craftsman" marches on apace. Surfboard production was one of the last of the "cottage industries" to fall.

Which brings me back to what I love about homemade surfboards - the indomitable spirit of human creativity, expressed through handcrafted playthings for ourselves and our friends, for the purpose of enjoying the natural uncomputerized unmechanized pleasure of riding ocean waves! What could be better than that?

ugly duckling

finally getting back to working on this one

Monday, August 15, 2011

mermaid tales

Got her at a yardsale the other day, and sold her to a surfing buddy in Australia. But I snapped some pics, maybe I could use them for a logo or something...?

Saturday, August 6, 2011

homemade pivot fin for longboard

Wood Surfboard Supply provided the fin base, I built the fin out of redwood and pine.