So far in this class we have looked at a plethora of materials that all seem to share a common theme of being manufactured. Manufacturing materials is a way to achieve a consistent product at high volumes. This is the conventional method of making materials in todays building environment, but historically these materials had to produced by hand in smaller quantities. Over time and because of advancement in technologies some of these more time-honored materials like hand cut stone have been phased out by reinforced concrete, and brick. Today the concept of craftsmanship is a rarity in the realm of materials. This is partially because of the inherent risk with the overall concept of craftsmanship. A recent article I came across by David Pye a former Professor of Furniture Design at The Royal College compares the risk of craftsmanship versus manufacturing to that of writing by hand and the use of a printing press. When you use a printing press there is a certainty in what the finished product will look like. In contrast writing by hand there is no preconceived image of the finished product and writing by hand requires a level of skill, dexterity, and judgment. At any moment the entire work can be ruined, and it is up to the discretion of the person when the work is finished.
Still with this level of risk craftsmanship has the potential to bring unique qualities to materials that manufacturing can’t replicate. One reason for this is because manufacturing wants to know what the finished product will look like in the beginning. This is a critical error in the design and creation process. It is the equivalent of having a single design iteration that you can never adjust. Another advantage of craftsmanship is the opportunity to react to the unique aspect of a material that may not be homogenous. Wood is a common material used as a standard construction material. It is taken rough cut into dimensional lumber then assembled in accord with this preconceived dimensional geometry. No care is paid to the color direction or uniqueness that is inherent in the wood. Opportunity is missed to exploit the materials to its full potential; instead it is treated at its most basic elements. Craftsmanship has the potential to elevate a material to a higher level than manufacturing, while bringing a unique more refined quality to the environment that it’s applied.