Craftsmanship [was The End of Film]
- At 01:40 AM 9/10/04 +0000, you wrote:
>We have purchased a little time withOn a closely related note (and, it has been alluded to in the
>digital type technologies and the photopolymer plate process, but as
>we near the end of that cycle, future survival is a matter of making
>adjustments. Assuming they can be made (and our work is not forced to
>suffer a decline in quality as a result)
Letpress forum) is the situation that Ruhlman addresses in his
book "Wooden Boats." He considers the fact that much of the
accumulated knowledge of generations of traditional wooden
boat builders nearly passed the way of the Passenger Pigeon.
There has been a wonderful renaissance in the building of
beautiful wooden boats in the past thirty years. It is often said
that the credit for this rests largely with the effort of one man --
Jon Wilson, who started "Wooden Boat" magazine at a time
(1971) when many firmly believed that fiberglass and other new
technologies in small craft construction would certainly render
the traditional wooden boat passe. Who will be the one to
rekindle the fire for traditional letterpress? And, who will be
there to provide the traditional films, cuts, and etc?
Ruhlman suggests that even a one-generation loss of continuity
will result in an irretrievable loss of knowledge. He speculates
further that a resurrection of the craft, at a later date, will be missing
so many crucial skills and standards that inferior quality and lowered
expectations will render the new "craftsmanship" little more than a
shabby approximation of the lost original.
Ruhlman also refers to Pye's principles of "craftsmanship of certainty"
versus "craftsmanship of risk." And, that might be an interesting
topic, at some point.
[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
The loss of continuity has also been discussed by the phenomenlogist Michael Polanyi in his _Personal Knowledge: Towards a Post-Critical Philosophy_.
"An art which can not be specied in detail can not be transmitted by prescription, since no prescription for it exists. It can be passed on
only by example from master to apprentice.... It follows that an art which has fallen into disuse for a period of a generation is altogether lost."
There needs to be some separation in thought, however, between that which constitutes non-industry letterpress over the years and the practices of commercial letterpress.
I think one of the problems we have experienced and why contemporary letterpress
can already be seen as a "shabby approximation of the lost original" is that
we have already lost that connection. But there are some lines of continuity of master to apprentice that have keep the "craft concerns" of letterpress alive. The John Anderson/Claire Van Vliet connection is the most obvious and relevent.
A problem we face the current explosion of interest in letterpress is the "workshop phenomenon," a democratization which acts as a substitute for
apprenticeship but clearly does not have the intimacy that is required for transmission. Without these "tools of experiencial knowledge," certain levels of the craft-quality of letterpress can not possibly be maintained.
> Ruhlman suggests that even a one-generation loss of continuity
> will result in an irretrievable loss of knowledge. He speculates
> further that a resurrection of the craft, at a later date, will be
> so many crucial skills and standards that inferior quality and lowered
> expectations will render the new "craftsmanship" little more than a
> shabby approximation of the lost original.
> Ruhlman also refers to Pye's principles of "craftsmanship of certainty"
> versus "craftsmanship of risk." And, that might be an interesting
> topic, at some point.